BLU-RAY MOVIE REVIEWS

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Josef Krebs Posted: Jun 24, 2016 0 comments
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Set in the late 19th century, Crimson Peak is a Gothic romance, a mystery mixture of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, with a dollop of Young Frankenstein. After the death of her mother from cholera when Edith is 12, the hideously deformed ghost comes back to warn of Crimson Peak. Fourteen years later in bustling, modern Buffalo, New York, the child, daughter of a self-made American building magnate, has become a beautiful aspiring author. She’s swept off her feet by a mysterious, darkly handsome English aristocrat who’s come to America seeking financing for his steam-powered digger of the clay his house is built upon.
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Chris Chiarella Posted: Jun 17, 2016 3 comments
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After an acclaimed reboot that successfully shed the sillier trappings of the long-running James Bond franchise, the creators of the recent Spectre have now curiously chosen to embrace the clunky clichés and cartoon villains not only of the 007 canon but seemingly every thriller of the past decade. Big Brother has arrived! It’s the death of privacy! “We must stop this doomful technology before it goes online, or it will be too late!” (Not an actual quote, but you get the idea.)
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David Vaughn Posted: Jun 17, 2016 2 comments
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Moby Dick is considered one of the great American novels. Most don’t know—I sure didn’t—that the book was based on the true events that took place in the winter of 1820 when the whaling ship Essex left the port of Nantucket, Massachusetts, and sailed around the tip of South America looking for prey. While in a South American port, they hear a tale of a mammoth whale that can be found in the Pacific, so they venture dangerously far from land and get a lot more than they bargained for when they find that said whale has a vengeance against humanity.
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Josef Krebs Posted: Jun 10, 2016 0 comments
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In 8th century China, the Tang dynasty, in decline, had built garrisons at the frontiers of its empire, but a hundred years later, some of those militarized provinces chose independence from the emperor. Weibo is the strongest, so a lovely assassin is sent to kill the head of its clan, Lord Tian. Made by Taiwanese writer-director Hsiao-Hsien Hou, The Assassin’s gorgeous, static imagery and characters, glacially slow-moving camera, and mood-filled silences are matched by the mysteries of the story that are only very gradually revealed, all of which evoke the poetic films of the great Andrei Tarkovsky.
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Brandon A. DuHamel Posted: Jun 10, 2016 1 comments
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Based on Michael Lewis’ non-fiction book, The Big Short brings together the ensemble cast of Steve Carell (who plays Mark Baum, a character based on the real-life Steve Eisman), Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, and Ryan Gosling as a number of Wall Street moneymen who discover the fraud underpinning the mortgage lending practices of the big banks and independently make moves to profit from the impending collapse of the system. Additionally, the film makes comical use of celebrities, playing themselves, to explain some of the technical financial jargon in layman’s terms. Margot Robbie in a bubble bath explaining subprime mortgage-backed securities is my personal favorite.
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Anthony Chiarella Posted: Jun 02, 2016 0 comments
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Richie Lanz (Bill Murray) is a rock ’n’ roll casualty, a down-and-out band promoter who leaps at the chance to join a USO tour to Afghanistan. Before the first show, however, Richie’s client, assistant, and possible paramour Ronnie Smiler (Zooey Deschanel) flees the country, leaving him broke, stranded, and $1,000 in debt to a trigger-happy mercenary (Bruce Willis). To the rescue come two hapless arms dealers who hire Richie to deliver munitions to a remote village.
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jun 02, 2016 0 comments
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In June 1957, Soviet spy Rudolf Abel is captured in New York City. Insurance attorney James B. Donovan is appointed to handle the defense, based on his experience at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials. Reluctant to take the case at first, Donovan ultimately accepts, passionate in his belief that everyone deserves a fair trial.
Avi Greengart Posted: May 27, 2016 3 comments
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The opening titles of Everest promise that this movie is based on a true story, but then we are led through what appears to be a standard Hollywood man-versus-nature tale, complete with distinct one-note characters to root for. There’s the super-climber who built a business around adventure tourism, complete with a pregnant wife at home. A former protégé,
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David Vaughn Posted: May 27, 2016 0 comments
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This is the true story of the rise of N.W.A., a Compton, California rap group who changed the musical landscape in the late 1980s with their blend of dope beats and hard-hitting lyrics about life in South Central L.A. Collaboration between Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Easy-E led to the hit release of Boyz in the Hood, which caught the ear of music manager Jerry Heller, who helped the group sign with Priority Records. Their first studio album, Straight Outta Compton, featured their controversial song “F*** the Police,” describing the reality of being a black man in L.A. in the 1980s.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: May 20, 2016 0 comments
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The Graduate is one of the great American films. It captured a spirit of the 1960s at its cusp, marked the screen debut of Dustin Hoffman (clearing the way for a new, more inclusive type of movie star), altered the nature and function of a movie-music soundtrack—and it’s just damn fine filmmaking. It’s the shrewd mixing of dissonant elements that made the movie so head-spinning in its day and so appealing still—a fairly conventional formula, sly angles on modern themes (empty materialism, alienated youth, sexual license), and raucous comedy done up in a stark, surreal mise-en-scène: Antonioni channeled through Second City, but deeply funny, not just satirical, and oddly moving, too.
Chris Chiarella Posted: May 20, 2016 1 comments
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We often live in a locked-down world of dread these days, especially when the subject of the World Trade Center arises. But in the summer of 1974, one week before his 25th birthday, Philippe Petit made headlines with a self-propelled trip between the rooftops of the Twin Towers, and it has become a modern legend almost too daring to be believed. Driven by an all-consuming passion for his wire-walking art and unable to resist the majestic pull of those magnificent skyscrapers since first learning of their construction, Philippe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) truly risked everything to fulfill his dream.
Chris Chiarella Posted: May 13, 2016 1 comments
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Andy Weir’s bestselling novel The Martian was justly lauded for its clever use of hard science facts to tell a thrilling yet believable tale of science fiction. Of course, the characters needed to be compelling as well if this bold survival epic was to work, and on screen as well as on the page, the futuristic drama is a smashing success. We begin a couple of decades from now as a manned Mars expedition is cut short due to a violent storm on the surface of the Red Planet.
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Corey Gunnestad Posted: May 13, 2016 0 comments
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I sometimes wonder if the filmmakers behind those cheesy science-fiction/horror B films of the 1950s ever believed that they were creating high art. Certainly films like Creature with the Atom Brain, Invasion of the Saucer Men, and I Married a Monster from Outer Space must have seemed pretty ridiculous to the moviegoers of the time too, don’t you think? And yet since then, those films have been elevated to a near-mythic cult status.
SV Staff Posted: May 12, 2016 2 comments
No format launch would be complete without movies to play, and UHD Blu-ray Disc boosters got more than they could have hoped for, with more than two-dozen titles from Sony, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and Lionsgate available concurrent with the debut of the Samsung UBD-K8500 player and all mastered with HDR10 high dynamic range. We asked our movie reviewers Tom Norton and David Vaughn for their top-line observations on 14 titles in the first batch to help you separate the demo-worthy from the duds.
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Josef Krebs Posted: May 06, 2016 0 comments
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Two dice roll into close-up. Thus, down-and-out dockside gambler Johnny Farrell is introduced, along with the theme of characters that make their own luck by cheating with chance, love, and big business. Whereas Johnny just plays his way into a job at an exotic Buenos Aires casino through his cardsharp skills, snappy spiel, and fast fisticuffs, his boss, Ballin, has greater ambitions in creating an international monopoly and is willing to use intimidation, illegal business practices, and murder to attain his goal. Johnny becomes as faithful and obedient to his mentor as Ballin’s phallic walking stick, until Ballin breaks their agreement of no women around, returning from a business trip with a wife—Gilda. Especially as she’s the woman who’d ripped Johnny’s heart out.

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