BLU-RAY MOVIE REVIEWS

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Shane Buettner Posted: Jul 25, 2006 Published: Jul 26, 2006 0 comments

Before there was <I>Rocky</I> there was, in real life, James J. Braddock. Braddock was a respectable fighter and contender in the late 20's who fell on extremely hard times during the depression. He was reduced to poverty like so many millions of Americans and barely put food on this family's table between boxing and working the docks. In the mid-30's he went on the right winning streak at the right time, culminating in his capturing the heavyweight title in 1935. Offering some idea of what an underdog Braddock was in his title bout with Max Baer, he entered the ring that night with the very pedestrian record of 44 wins and 23 losses. The "Cinderella Man's" story inspired millions, not to mention the impact it's had on sports movies over the decades.

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Shane Buettner Posted: Jul 25, 2006 Published: Jul 26, 2006 0 comments

<I>The Last Samurai</I> is a movie that succeeds more than I expected it to in spite of Tom Cruise giving one of the worst performances of all time by an actor of his stature (and I’m not referring to his diminutive height here). I didn't see <I>Samurai</I> in the theater because I was repelled by its marriage of subject matter and star. And no, I'm not a Tom Cruise hater at all. I just had a hard time imagining him in a Samurai picture of any kind. And even my lowered expectations didn't prepare me for how laughably unconvincing Cruise is here as the adrift Civil War hero Nathan Algren. Cruise's performance is all the more frustrating because the man can be nothing short of brilliant when he wants to be (see <I>Born on the Fourth of July</I>, <I>Magnolia</I> and even <I>Interview with the Vampire</I> for proof positive).

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Tom Norton Posted: Jun 17, 2006 0 comments

In these still early days of HD DVD, it's a little creepy that three of the releases have been films about bad cops: <I>Assault on Precinct 13</I>, <I>Training Day</I> (see below) and now <I>16 Blocks</I>.

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Tom Norton Posted: Jun 17, 2006 0 comments

Stephen Sommers, director of a fun ride in <I>The Mummy</I> and an unnecessary, overblown sequel in <I>The Mummy Returns</I>, brings us a whole bevy of uglies in <I>Van Helsing</I>. It's a monster mash, with Dracula getting together with his vampire brides, the Frankenstein monster, Mr. Hyde, wherewolves, and various other hangers on.

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Tom Norton Posted: Jun 17, 2006 0 comments

<I>Training Day</I> is about a bad cop. A very bad cop who has convinced himself that if he can do good in questionable ways and get a little action on the side for himself (not to mention for a few bad cop buddies), that’s the name of the game. When it comes to breaking in a rookie, however, he gets more than he bargained for.

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Tom Norton Posted: May 30, 2006 Published: May 31, 2006 0 comments

As submarine movies go, <I>U-571</I> is far from a classic. It includes scenes we've seen in countless other submarine films, and its history is warped (implying that the U.S. Navy and not the Royal Navy captured the Nazi Enigma machine and broke the German naval codes&mdash;though the end titles do correct the record).

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Tom Norton Posted: May 30, 2006 Published: May 31, 2006 0 comments

I have mixed feeling about the Bourne films. This one is the sequel to the first, <I>The Bourne Identity</I>. The two movies feature a rogue, on-the-run, amnesiac CIA hit man trying to discover who he really is, and in the process discovering "talents" that he didn't know he had.

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Tom Norton Posted: May 30, 2006 Published: May 31, 2006 0 comments

As noted in another blog, I've been having fun lately with unexpectedly good movies that fell through the critical and audience cracks during their theatrical releases. And <I> The Greatest Game Ever Played</I> certainly surprised me as much as any of them.

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Tom Norton Posted: May 28, 2006 0 comments

I've been experiencing an unusual run of good films on standard definition DVD lately, though most are not of any special demonstration quality, nothing gets blowed-up real good in most of them, few were big hits, and several are set in the past. But I'm a sucker for almost any historical film or TV miniseries (HBO's two part <I>Elizabeth I</I> resides on the HD PVR in my cable box even now waiting for me to find the 4 hours I need to invest in watching it!)

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Tom Norton Posted: May 28, 2006 0 comments

A bored, rich widow, Laura Henderson (Judi Dench) buys a failed London theater on the eve of World War II. But she soon discovers she has no idea what to do with it. After she hires an experienced producer (Bob Hoskins) the theater is briefly successful running music hall reviews. But soon reality sets in and the competition drives them into the red.

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Tom Norton Posted: May 28, 2006 0 comments

Yes, I know. This film was received by critics as if it was the sequel to <I>Battlefield Earth</I> instead of the follow-up to the cult favorite, <I>Pitch Black</I>. Riddick, you may recall, was once a dangerous, sociopathic villain. Here, like a gravel-voiced Captain Kirk, he arrives just in time to save the universe from the Underverse.

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Tom Norton Posted: May 18, 2006 0 comments

And now for something entirely different. Film critics and theater audiences had a mixed reaction to this computer-animated release. So mixed, in fact, that it moved in and out of theaters last fall before it had a chance to develop any word of mouth.

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Tom Norton Posted: May 18, 2006 0 comments

When a rogue Russian extremist seizes control of enough of Russia's armaments to nuke the US, the <I>USS Alabama</I>, along with other nuclear missile subs, is sent in harm's way as a deterrent or possibly even a first-strike weapon to take out the Russian missiles before they can be launched.

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Tom Norton Posted: May 17, 2006 0 comments

Start with a look at Marine boot camp not much different than what we've seen in countless war movies. Move on to a boring look at bored Marines killing time in the desert in the buildup to the 1991 Gulf War. They're depicted as dumb, disorganized, rowdy, and undisciplined. The promotional copy for the movie, included in the cover art, says that the troops are "in a country they don't understand, against an enemy they can't see, for a cause they don't fully grasp. Believe me, the troops in the first Gulf War were fully briefed on the country they were going to, could usually see the enemy (his back, typically), and understood that they were fighting to free a country occupied by the forces of an expansionist dictator. That promotional copy was clearly written as a not-too-subtle analogy to the <I>current</I> Iraq war.

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Posted: May 09, 2006 1 comments

I hadn't watched Ron Howard's <I>Apollo 13</I> in years- probably since the first DTS DVD release in the late 90s. It's extraordinary that this movie remains so riveting- nerve wracking even- so long after seeing it for the first time, and having gone into that first viewing knowing how the story ends! The filmmaking, the performances, the effects, the attention to every technical detail, everything is top notch and about as good as it gets from big-time Hollywood filmmaking. A great, compelling movie, and capsule in time of one of America's most riveting real-life dramas. This is what used to be "reality TV" back in the day!

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