BLU-RAY MOVIE REVIEWS

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Shane Buettner Posted: May 29, 2013 0 comments
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Released before home video could be counted on to save a studio’s bottom line on just about any flop, 1980’s Heaven’s Gate is one of the all-time box-office bombs. Back then, disasters like this took down careers, and few falls were faster or farther than director Michael Cimino’s, who made this notoriously expensive Western as his follow-up to the Oscar-winning juggernaut The Deer Hunter. His career never recovered, and Heaven’s Gate almost single-handedly ended the reign of the director within the Hollywood studio system that produced so many great auteur films in the 1970s.
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: May 29, 2013 0 comments
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Threatened with eviction from his lifelong home, Carl Fredrickson cuts loose in an unexpected way and sets off on a journey to the South American wilderness he and his late wife had long yearned to visit. Along the way, he picks up a few unwelcome (at first) fellow travelers: Russell, an 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer; Kevin, a rare bird and a key plot McGuffin; and Dug, a talking dog. Carl also runs into his boyhood idol, explorer Charles Muntz, who turns out to be less of a hero than he had long imagined.
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Chris Chiarella Posted: May 27, 2013 3 comments
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The antebellum South returned to modern screens by way of ’60s/’70s-style Blaxploitation in Quentin Tarantino’s electric Django Unchained. A surprisingly good-hearted, forward-thinking bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz, Oscar'd again here) purchases and frees the slave of the title (Jamie Foxx) in exchange for his help in tracking down three big-ticket wanted men.
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David Vaughn Posted: May 22, 2013 1 comments
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The seven Harry Potter novels have sold more than 450 million copies and are the best-selling book series in history. With such a rabid and loyal fan base, it was a foregone conclusion that Hollywood would come knocking on author J.K. Rowling’s door. In 1998, Warner Bros. purchased the rights to the first two novels for more than $1 million, and director Chris Columbus had the pleasure— and challenge—of casting all the various characters who would entertain audiences for the next 10 years.

The three main characters, Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger, were perfectly cast with Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson, respectively. Audiences got to see these three kids grow up as people and actors over the years, and Warner Bros. executives were able to keep them and the rest of the all-star cast together until the final film in 2011.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: May 22, 2013 0 comments
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Little Nemo and his dad, Marlin, are the only survivors of a barracuda attack that took his mom and not-yet-hatched siblings. On Nemo’s first day of school (fish in a school—who knew?), he swims out beyond safety and is scooped up by a scuba diver. The distraught Marlin sets out on a journey to find him. In his quest, he meets up with a memory-challenged fish, Dory; a trio of sharks in a fish-anonymous rehab group; a convoy of surfer-dude turtles; a great blue whale; and more.
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Chris Chiarella Posted: May 21, 2013 1 comments
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Eight years have passed since the complicated events of The Dark Knight. The Batman (Christian Bale) has taken the blame for the death of district attorney Harvey Dent in an attempt to inspire the people of Gotham City to stand strong against crime. With the subsequent passage of the Dent Act, Gotham is tougher on criminals than ever, even while The Bat has disappeared, his alter ego Bruce Wayne living in self-imposed exile.
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Corey Gunnestad Posted: May 14, 2013 2 comments
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If it weren’t for the 2012 presidential election and the recent public shaming of Anthony Weiner and David Petraeus, we might have a difficult time finding any credibility in the outrageous humor of The Campaign. Scandals, corruption, lies, and character assassination: It isn’t just for breakfast anymore. It’s become part of our daily diet. Just watch CNN, for Pete’s sake.
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Corey Gunnestad Posted: May 14, 2013 0 comments
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One magical night, a lonely young boy named John makes a special wish that his teddy bear will come to life and be his best friend. And on that special night, the fates decide to grant him his wish. The next morning, John introduces Teddy to his absolutely freaked-out parents. Flash-forward 25 years, and John has grown up into a strapping young man who looks astonishingly like Mark Wahlberg. Best friend, Teddy, now just called plain Ted, has grown up, too, but only in maturity…or lack thereof. John and Ted now spend their afternoons getting high in front of the tube and talking trash about women.
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Chris Chiarella Posted: May 14, 2013 0 comments
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With each passing year, we seem to be witnessing the further shrinkage of the gender gap, and so movies like A League of Their Own are ever-more fascinating. It shares with modern movie audiences the little-known true tale of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, created to help keep the national pastime alive while the menfolk were off fighting World War II. The idea was met with much resistance at the time, and so the girls face challenges off the field as well as on.
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Chris Chiarella Posted: May 10, 2013 0 comments
When an older and quite esteemed film expert asked me not long ago what my favorite genre was, I was honestly flummoxed. Pixar isn’t a genre, and I’ve just seen too many lame science-fiction flicks. Looking back over a life of film fandom and the past decade in particular, I finally came up with an eyebrow-raising response: comic book movies.
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David Vaughn Posted: May 08, 2013 0 comments
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One of silent film’s biggest stars, Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), enlists the talents of a down-on-his-luck Hollywood screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) to help edit a screenplay she wrote in hopes of launching her big comeback. Little does Gillis know, the poor lady is off her rocker. But when you’re broke, you have to take work when you can get it. The pair watch her old movies with her trusty butler—who hides his own dirty secret—at the helm of the camera, but the more time Gillis spends with the ex-starlet, the more he becomes accustomed to the lavish lifestyle she provides him.
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Shane Buettner Posted: May 08, 2013 0 comments
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Moonrise Kingdom is another witty charmer from writer/director Wes Anderson, this time with a bittersweet tinge of youth’s passing in 1965 New England. The protagonists are two troubled 12-year-olds who run away to marry in the wilderness of insular New Penzance Island. Suzy’s parents are miserable, insufferable lawyers (Frances McDormand and Bill Murray). Suzy sees a lot (often through binoculars) and has discovered her mother is having an affair with the island policeman, Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis). Sam is an orphan with outstanding wilderness skills, who resigns from his Khaki Scout troop (in writing!) and is not invited back to his foster family if found. His only family is the troop of Khaki Scouts led by the well-meaning but overmatched Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton).
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Corey Gunnestad Posted: May 02, 2013 0 comments
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There’s an old expression: “God is in the details.” This was never truer for a film than Ridley Scott’s visceral dystopian masterpiece Blade Runner. It’s not uncommon for a motion picture to be released in more than one version or cut for the public’s delectation. Many times, a filmmaker’s original vision is compromised in favor of releasing a more commercially marketable product by the studio putting up the money. As a result, director’s cuts, extended cuts, and special editions are much more prevalent now in the digital age and home video market. Few films, however, have seen as many versions or received as much scrutiny as Blade Runner.
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David Vaughn Posted: May 02, 2013 0 comments
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Steve Martin stars as Neal Page, an uptight advertising executive who misses his scheduled flight from New York to Chicago when an obnoxious salesman steals his cab. As fate would have it, the cab thief turns out to be a shower curtain ring salesman (John Candy) who just happens to sit next to Neal on his flight home. Due to inclement weather, their plane is diverted to Wichita, and when they land, Neal fails to secure a place to stay for the evening. Lucky for him, his new “friend” has booked the last room in town. Thus begins a relationship made in heaven—or hell, depending on your perspective.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Apr 26, 2013 3 comments
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Lawrence of Arabia may be the last extravagant blockbuster that was also a great film. It’s nearly four hours long, much of it consisting of men galloping on camels through the desert, shot on location with a cast of hundreds, no sex, almost no women—yet this is riveting, heart-pounding stuff, and witty, to boot. It’s based on the true story of T.E. Lawrence, the romantic British officer who led a gaggle of bedouin armies against Turkish strongholds in World War I, helped bring down the Ottoman Empire, came to believe his own myths and see himself as a demigod—and thus became a delusional monster. The film has the feel of a grand epic and an intimate psychodrama. It’s an adventure, a clash of cultures, and a tragedy.

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