BLU-RAY MOVIE REVIEWS

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Chris Chiarella Posted: Feb 19, 2016 0 comments
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Growing up is tough enough for any eleven-year-old, but when Riley finds out that her family is moving, her idyllic life is turned upside down. She must now contend with a new house, a new school, and a host of new feelings. Fortunately, the five main emotions that share control of her mind—Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Anger—are at the ready. But when partners Joy and Sadness find themselves cut off from headquarters, confused little Riley’s situation quickly goes from bad to worse.

Once again, writer/director Pete Docter has crafted a tale that entertains the youngest viewers while also challenging even the smartest adults in the room. The underlying psychology is brilliantly laid out, allowing us to explore the relationship between emotions, memories, and personality. Dialogue is deliciously witty (star Amy Poehler is comedy gold in any medium), and in revealing the delicate balance between happiness and sorrow, the story achieves its greatest poignancy.

Tut
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Feb 16, 2016 2 comments
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Egyptian history is astonishingly long by modern standards. The pharaoh Tutankhamun lived roughly 13 centuries after the pyramids were built, and another 13 centuries would pass before Cleopatra friended an asp.

The plot of this two-disc, 4.5-hour miniseries is centered on the limited facts we know about Tut. He was the son of Akhenaten, whose worship of the sun god Aton and rejection of Egypt’s traditional deities nearly tore the country apart. Tut became pharaoh around age nine and eventually restored the old gods and stabilized the kingdom. But by the time of his death at a young 19, he had failed to produce an heir by his wife and half-sister Ankhesenamun.

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Brandon A. DuHamel Posted: Feb 12, 2016 0 comments
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The post-apocalyptic dystopian film is a staple of science-fiction filmmaking, but most of the films inhabit a similar space. Director Craig Zobel’s Z for Zachariah is one of the rare ones that change the formula. Z for Zachariah, based upon Robert C. O’Brien’s novel, still relies on some unknown radioactive, presumably nuclear event as the catalyst that brings down society, but the story is not focused on this. Instead, it is a character study about three people in one idyllic valley in the Southeastern United States spared by the disaster.
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Chris Chiarella Posted: Feb 12, 2016 0 comments
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Author Walter Farley’s sweet, timeless tale of a young boy and his special bond with a spirited horse was brought to cinematic life with irresistible visual and sonic beauty, more appreciable than ever on Criterion’s fantastic new Blu-ray. Our boy, Alec (Kelly Reno, what a find), is washed ashore on a remote island after a shipwreck, and the only other survivor is a magnificent Arabian stallion. Their time alone together is a prolonged marvel of wordless storytelling, while the post-rescue second half is quite a different animal, as a grizzled old trainer (a wonderfully cast Mickey Rooney) agrees to prepare the horse to race. It’s a thrilling adventure for kids, but without the sap that might otherwise send the adults fleeing.
Chris Chiarella Posted: Feb 12, 2016 1 comments
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The still-thrilling Terminator franchise has certainly experienced its share of highs and lows over the last 30-odd years. And so creator James Cameron’s ringing endorsement for the latest installment, Terminator Genisys—in which he had no direct involvement—carried a lot of weight with fans. While giving major respect to the classic canon, this fifth movie is superbly smart, inventive, and even quite funny at times.
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Corey Gunnestad Posted: Feb 05, 2016 0 comments
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The Warner Bros. Archive Collection has remastered and released another contemporary classic from their vaults: The World According to Garp, and a welcome arrival it is. Adapted from the novel by John Irving and released back in 1982, this quirky comic drama featured star-making performances from three relative newcomers: Glenn Close, John Lithgow, and a gifted young comedian named Robin Williams. Appropriately, Lithgow and Close were both nominated for Academy Awards for their supporting performances, but it was several years too soon for Williams to be taken seriously as a dramatic actor. George Roy Hill, who directed Paul Newman and Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting, showed inspired brilliance in giving the lead role to Williams, an actor whose only prior characterizations were a manic alien named Mork from Ork and a one-eyed sailor named Popeye.
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David Vaughn Posted: Feb 05, 2016 2 comments
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A massive earthquake hits an unknown fault line in southern Nevada, causing a chain reaction along the San Andreas in California that will have disastrous effects on the nation’s most populous state. Fortunately for L.A. Fire and Rescue helicopter pilot Ray Gaines, he’s good in a crisis, and he’s put in position to single-handedly save his loved ones while the world is literally crumbling around him.
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David Vaughn Posted: Jan 29, 2016 3 comments
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Adapted from George R. R. Martin’s fantasy series of books, Game of Thrones debuted on HBO in 2011 and became an instant small-screen classic. The fifth season was recently honored with the “Outstanding Drama Series” Emmy, and the sixth (of rumored eight) will debut this year.

This is my second attempt at watching after the first failed miserably due to complaints from Mrs. Reviewer. While she loved the medieval period sets and costumes, she was extremely turned off by the gore and the seemingly never-ending display of bare breasts along with “pointless sex scenes.” I have to admit that I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the incestuous scene in the first episode, but I found that the rampant depictions of prostitution showcased the low morality prevalent in this society, and it became an integral part of the storytelling, especially the aforementioned incest.

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Guido Henkel Posted: Jan 29, 2016 0 comments
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Stanley Kubrick’s legendary depiction of a slave uprising in ancient Rome has long since entered the annals of cinema history, so there’s little else to say about this beloved movie. Produced long before the advent of digital filmmaking, it is an ambitious masterpiece, an incredibly lavish undertaking with scenes that assemble thousands of extras while driving home the story of one man making all the difference in the world.
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David Vaughn Posted: Jan 22, 2016 1 comments
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As a youth, Frank Walker is full of hope and aspiration, which is almost snuffed out when his entry into the 1964 World’s Fair science competition is shot down by one of the judges before he even gets a chance to enter it. But fate has a different plan for Frank, and with the help of Athena, a mysterious young girl, he’s taken to a magical place where his hopes and dreams can come true. Fifty years later, we meet Casey Newton, a science-minded teen who dreams of going to the stars and will stop at nothing to sabotage NASA’s efforts to dismantle the last remaining launch pad—that is, until the police catch her. Upon posting bail, she finds a mysterious pin among her belongings. When she touches it, she gets a glimpse of the magical world of Tomorrowland, a futuristic city that’s light-years ahead of Earth technologically.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jan 22, 2016 0 comments
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A Room with a View is one of the most romantic films of all time—a funny, leisurely, unabashed, but also ironic celebration of “beauty, joy, love,” (as its youthful hero shouts from a flimsy treetop in the Italian countryside). Based on E.M. Forster’s novel, it remains the most successful film by Merchant Ivory, the enterprise consisting of producer Ismail Merchant, director James Ivory, and screenwriter Ruth Prawler Jhabvala. I’d found (and still find) many of their other movies dull, so what jelled with this one? The infectiously gorgeous setting—Florence, its surroundings, and the estates of southeastern England—must have played some role. The actors are as fine an ensemble as any assembled (besides the three listed below, Denholm Elliott, Daniel Day-Lewis, Judi Dench, Simon Callow, Rupert Graves).
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David Vaughn Posted: Jan 22, 2016 1 comments
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Fourteenth-century prince Vlad Dracula ushers off on a religious crusade to battle his enemies, leaving the love of his life in his gothic castle. Before he returns victoriously, the evil Turks send word to his bride that he has died in battle. Beset with grief, she commits suicide, and upon seeing her lifeless body, Dracula denounces the church in a fit of rage and becomes an undead man whose eternal existence requires him to feed off the blood of other living creatures. Four hundred years later, a London real-estate broker visits Dracula in Transylvania. When Dracula happens upon a picture of the agent’s fiancée and notices her striking resemblance to his deceased bride, he must travel to London to gaze upon her beauty for himself and rediscover true love.
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Brandon A. DuHamel Posted: Jan 15, 2016 0 comments
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Directors Mark Linfield and Alastair Fothergill (Earth) return to Disneynature with the beautifully filmed documentary Monkey Kingdom, which follows a troop of macaques living in the ruins of a Sri Lankan temple. The story hones in on a female named Maya and her newborn son Kip. The lowborn Maya must work her way through the complex hierarchy of the macaques in her struggle to survive and feed her son.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jan 15, 2016 1 comments
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Timbuktu is a film of soaring beauty, sly humor, and urgent sorrow. An Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Film, it should have won if the actual winner, the Polish masterpiece Ida, hadn’t. Shot in Mauritania, which stands in for Mali (of which Timbuktu is capital), it unspools the tragic ways in which a peaceful village is robbed of family, tradition, and the stuff of a full life when occupied by armed jihadists bearing the black flag of ISIL. At first, the dissonance seems comical: clueless outsiders, proclaiming a ban on music, soccer, and exposed female flesh, while camels block the roads and the locals lounge indifferent.
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Chris Chiarella Posted: Dec 23, 2015 0 comments
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In an era when Glee was everywhere, moviegoers understandably didn’t flock to see the seemingly similar Pitch Perfect on the big screen, but Blu-ray/DVD and TV showings ultimately brought the charming comedy the audience it deserved. Three years later, the mettlesome young songstresses from Barden University are back, eager to win an international competition with the help of a new recruit. Returning co-star/producer Elizabeth Banks also makes a triumphant directorial debut with Pitch Perfect 2, seamlessly maintaining the ongoing franchise’s breezily mean-spirited humor while staging many memorable new cover versions of eclectic pop tunes.

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