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BLU-RAY MOVIE REVIEWS

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Josef Krebs Posted: Jun 19, 2014 0 comments
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Set in 1978, this entertaining film tells the “some of this actually happened” story of a brilliant grifter (Christian Bale) and his co-conspirator lover (Amy Adams), who, on getting busted in a scam sting, are forced to work for an FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) in bringing down four fellow crooks. But the crazily ambitious fed ups the ante to entrapping corrupt politicians willing to accept kickbacks to grease the wheels of the sheik’s scheme to rebuild Atlantic City casinos. But this, of course, will mean mafia involvement and taking down a decent New Jersey mayor (Jeremy Renner) who just wants to help his community. And out of all these fast-talking con artists, who’s really zooming whom?
Corey Gunnestad Posted: Jun 18, 2014 0 comments
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The legend of the 47 ronin is a long-cherished Japanese story about a group of dishonored samurai who set out on a dangerous quest to avenge the death of their village lord. Technically, their lord was deceived and tricked into killing himself, but as far as they’re concerned, it still counts as murder. And in the Japanese feudal code of samurai conduct, there’s no greater shame than failing to protect and serve your lord and master. Masterless samurai are called ronin, and it sucks to be one. The story is simple enough: The dishonored and banished ronin stage an impossible attack on their enemy’s stronghold to avenge their fallen master and perform ritual suicide when their task is done to regain their honor. The End. It sounds like a great idea for a movie, and it probably would have been in the hands of someone like Kurosawa or Kubrick, but tragically, both were unavailable.
Chris Chiarella Posted: Jun 13, 2014 0 comments
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Thorin, heir to the dwarf throne, is on a quest to reclaim his homeland and unite his people. But to do so, he’ll need to survive an onslaught of murderous Orcs, steal a vital stone back from an insanely powerful talking dragon, and overcome all manner of treachery along the way. Fortunately, he makes new allies in his travels, but while there’s certainly no shortage of characters in this middle chapter of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth epic, it dawned on me that none of them are especially compelling. With their numbers growing, we don’t really have the chance to get to know any of them.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jun 12, 2014 0 comments
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After watching The Great Beauty in a theater, I wanted to watch it again, not to catch details I’d missed (there weren’t many) but to relive the experience. I can’t remember a film that so raptly captures the flow of life, the “fleeting and sporadic flashes of beauty” beneath the “blah-blah-blah” of existence, as our protagonist, Jep Gambardella, reflects in his epiphany. Jep (played by the marvelous Toni Servillo) is the king of Rome’s high society, the author of a celebrated novel who hasn’t written one since because he can’t find “the great beauty.” But, at the end, he realizes that life is full of great beauty when mediated through art, and so begins his new novel, which, we realize, is the film we’ve just seen.
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Chris Chiarella Posted: Jun 06, 2014 0 comments
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Patently rejecting the notion that brevity is the soul of wit, IaMMMMW is Hollywood’s first (and last?) “epic comedy,” clocking in at two hours and 24 minutes in its popular version. Just about every A-list comedy actor of the era is involved in this sprawling tale of some everyday folk who drop everything for an unplanned dash to find a deceased criminal’s buried loot.
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Anthony Chiarella Posted: Jun 04, 2014 1 comments
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When six-year-old Anna Dover and her neighbor disappear, father Keller (Hugh Jackman) tramples the law to find her. While Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) methodically investigates, the impatient Keller kidnaps his daughter’s alleged kidnapper and attempts to extract a confession through torture. Prisoners is a perfectly paced psycho-drama that engrosses and rewards its audience.
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David Vaughn Posted: Jun 03, 2014 0 comments
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After securing victory in the Hunger Games the previous year by sticking the finger to President Snow by threatening suicide, Katniss and Peta must leave their homes and loved ones behind in order to embark on the Victory Tour through the districts. As they travel around the various locales, Katniss begins to sense a rebellion is afoot and believes she’s the unlikely inspiration for the movement. Still, Snow gets the last laugh by announcing a special 75th Hunger Games that will pit previous winners against each other in a winner-take-all showdown in a made-for-TV event that will be a winner in the ratings—take that, Everdeen!
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Chris Chiarella Posted: May 30, 2014 0 comments
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Michael Mann’s feature film directing debut, this rough-hewn caper drama fairly throbs with energy, thanks in large part to the inspired use of a Tangerine Dream musical score. Criminal or not, Frank (James Caan) is pretty difficult to like, but he’s a total professional, so naturally the Chicago mob wants to own him. They underestimated Frank, however, and his rage erupts stylishly in this unrated director’s cut.
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Chris Chiarella Posted: May 29, 2014 0 comments
In 2009, one of the kings of quirky dramedy, Wes Anderson, managed to surprise us again with a star-studded, fully stop-motion-animated adaptation of Roald Dahl’s deliciously absurd Fantastic Mr. Fox. This laid-back bad boy has settled down with his wife and pup, but can a fox ever really change his nature?
Thomas J. Norton Posted: May 23, 2014 1 comments
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In 2009’s Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, ace boy inventor Flint Lockwood had clearly bitten off more than he could chew with his latest invention, a device that produced food from water vapor. Dubbed the Flint Lockwood Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator (or FLDSMDFR—pronounced “fldsmdefer”), it inundated his island home of Swallow Falls with a tsunami of edibles. Now the town has been evacuated, and Flint, his dad, his pals, and the rest of his fellow townsfolk have been moved to San Franjose, California, where Flint takes a job as a fledgling inventor at Live Corp.
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Chris Chiarella Posted: May 22, 2014 0 comments
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Director Abdellatif Kechiche has crafted an engaging, truthful tale of unexpected and tempestuous romance between two young women. At three hours, it explores these characters and their relationship in extraordinary, almost excessive detail, so be warned. The graphic lovemaking scenes have garnered something of a reputation for Blue Is the Warmest Color, but they are in service to a powerful story of wild emotion. Despite dozens of international awards, including the top prize at Cannes, this one was hard to find in theaters here in the States, so this Blu-ray is especially welcome.
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Chris Chiarella Posted: May 21, 2014 0 comments
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Fasten your seat belts for the fastest thrill ride of 2013! Ron Howard’s best film since A Beautiful Mind chronicles Formula One during the mid-’70s—the deadliest era for one of the world’s deadliest sports—and dramatizes the true story of champions James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl), whose rivalry mirrored Frazier/Ali and Borg/McEnroe. Peter Morgan’s screenplay evenhandedly illuminates the destructive and empowering aspects of their competition. Hemsworth and Brühl channel two genius drivers with divergent personalities: Hunt, the cavalier, reckless playboy versus serious, disciplined Lauda, whose obsession with besting Hunt culminates in a crescendo of flames that nearly kills him.
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Chris Chiarella Posted: May 15, 2014 0 comments
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Bearing the lofty Jackass mantle, this feature film eschews the basic format of the erstwhile MTV series, which bombarded viewers with a string of standalone stunts and running jokes performed by a brave troupe with a high tolerance for pain. Instead, Bad Grandpa emulates the Borat model, crafting a basic plot and characters as a scripted backdrop for multiple outrageous set pieces that unfold before unsuspecting bystanders.
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Corey Gunnestad Posted: May 14, 2014 0 comments
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For dedicated, respected, and talented actors, it’s still and will always be about the work—and taking it wherever you can find it. A Single Shot is a well-made, low-budget indie film that touts a superlative cast featuring Sam Rockwell, Jeffrey Wright, Kelly Reilly, Jason Isaacs, Ted Levine, and William H. Macy. With a pedigree like that, you’d think this film might have received a bigger push at the box office, but it was easily overlooked amidst the whirl of mainstream Hollywood entertainment.
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Chris Chiarella Posted: May 08, 2014 0 comments
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High on the list of stars needing a good movie under their belt we would find the beleaguered Mr. Schwarzenegger. His box office clout was waning, then he spent many years away from show business to run California. At one point his most promising comeback vehicle seemed to be a bizarre "Governator" cartoon, and then it all came crashing down amid a horrible public scandal. But could he still hold his own on the big screen if he wanted to?

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