BLU-RAY MOVIE REVIEWS

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David Vaughn Posted: Sep 24, 2012 2 comments
The buddy movie has been a staple in Hollywood going back to the days of Abbott and Costello. The 1980s revived it with films such as 48 Hours and Lethal Weapon, and there have been quite a few copycats over the years that have made their mark. Like most successful films, sequels are a surety, and this is where the Mel Gibson–fueled franchise proved its worth with nearly $500 million in box-office receipts for the four films.
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 17, 2012 1 comments
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As Marvel’s comic characters go, Ghost Rider is hellishly hard to categorize. From what I can gather from the character’s two films, 2007’s Ghost Rider and this sequel (I’m not a fan of the comics), Johnny Blaze is a motorcycle stunt rider who sells his soul to the devil to save his father’s life. In exchange, he periodically turns into an ancient, fiery demon that searches out evil to suck out its soul. A bummer for sure, but everybody needs a hobby. His motorcycle has apparently sold its carburetor and tires to Beelzebub as well, since whenever Johnny goes all flames and stuff, he’s also treated to one hell of a ride. Talk about sitting on the hot seat.
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Corey Gunnestad Posted: Sep 10, 2012 0 comments
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Long before Batman had the Joker, the world’s greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes, had an evil nemesis who was every bit his equal in intelligence and powers of perception; the yin to his yang, so to speak. Professor James Moriarty was a precursor to the Bond villain and a blueprint for every criminal mastermind to come. In the previous Sherlock Holmes film, he was a mysterious and sinister presence concealed in darkness. For A Game of Shadows, he comes to the forefront to challenge the master detective to a game to the death and is played with relish by Jared Harris.
Chris Chiarella Posted: Sep 04, 2012 3 comments
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An old adage (OK, I just made it up) says that if you’re going to make a movie in 3D, you’d better give the audience something interesting to look at. The Mysterious Island does just that, dazzling the eyes with nonstop wonders held together by a wholly adequate plot. Young Sean (Josh Hutcherson) is having trouble living the suburban life of a normal teen after the excitement of his journey to the center of the earth. And soon enough, a cryptic message from his missing grandfather sets him off on a new adventure halfway around the globe, this time chaperoned by his supercool stepdad (Dwayne Johnson).
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Shane Buettner Posted: Aug 28, 2012 0 comments
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Chinatown is an impossibly perfect movie from the glory years of the 1970s, when great filmmakers were routinely working within the Hollywood system. Consider that Chinatown’s 1974 Oscar competition was Coppola’s The Godfather: Part II and The Conversation, and you get the idea. Robert Towne’s complex but tightly woven screenplay, set amid L.A.’s 1930s water wars, is a clinic on screenwriting. Every detail is of great consequence as the misdirection peels away and the baser, more painful truths are revealed, culminating in a haunting, unforgettable ending that starkly reveals the cynicism of the film’s title.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Aug 14, 2012 0 comments
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There are few more enduring classics of American theater than Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, an over-the-top, sweaty steam bath of a play that straddles Greek tragedy and Gothic camp yet still commands attention, even astonishes, 65 years after its creation. The show ran on Broadway for two years; the film adaptation was shot two years after that; both were directed by Elia Kazan and starred Marlon Brando. This was only Brando’s second film. He was 27 years old. And despite all the subsequent parodies of his sultry pout and his mumblecore rage (“Stella! Stel-l-l-laaa!”), he was a blazing-hot actor. It’s a natural heat that he radiates, and he modulates it seamlessly, from simmer to boil and all shades in between. Brando’s amazing to watch: The acting is all there on the surface, yet he’s so immersed in his character, it seems completely uncontrived. You see the moves and attitude that countless actors later copied, but none of them ever matched this. (That said, his performance in Kazan’s On the Waterfront three years later was even better, subtler.)
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 13, 2012 2 comments
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When I was a wee lad, I was taken to a movie about a boy and his dog. It was a Lassie movie, I believe, although I was too young for that to mean anything. According to my mother, however, I cried so hard they could hear me in the back of the balcony. (All theaters had balconies in olden times.)
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Chris Chiarella Posted: Aug 07, 2012 3 comments
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Tom Cruise returns as IMF agent Ethan Hunt for this fourth film in his big-screen Mission: Impossible franchise, and this might just be the best one yet. Hunt is the sort of fellow I secretly hope we have on the federal payroll: fearless, cool under pressure, and a quick study in almost everything. He’s a good man to have on our side when the going gets rough because he simply will not quit as long as he has a pulse.
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David Vaughn Posted: Aug 02, 2012 0 comments
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During World War II, Casablanca served as an exit point for many Europeans seeking to escape the gripping hand of the Nazis. American expatriate Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), owner of Rick’s Café Américain, isn’t what you would call a people person. When Rick’s ex-lover, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), arrives in town with European resistance fighter Victor Laszlo, they seek out Rick’s help in obtaining papers to escape Casablanca. Can the man who refuses to “stick his neck out for nobody” set his cynicism aside and do the right thing?
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David Vaughn Posted: Apr 25, 2012 0 comments

The trailer for this movie showed a lot of promise and the star power of Mark Wahlberg had me eagerly awaiting its release on Blu-ray. Sadly, the screenplay is a predictable mess, the acting inconsistent, and the twists and turns have been done countless times in Hollywood that the ending couldn't come soon enough. At least the AVC video encode is loaded with detail and other than some occasional black crush, there isn't much to complain about, but the best aspect of the entire production is the fantastic DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack the features plenty of frequency response and some pinpoint imaging.
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David Vaughn Posted: Apr 17, 2012 4 comments

When the first Mission: Impossible hit the theaters in 1996, I found the story to be a little confusing and flat. Subsequent viewings showed it to be a movie that got better with time. Unfortunately, the sequel in 2000 was a dud—the action was great, but the screenplay wasn't anything to brag about. Lucky for us, J.J. Abrams took over in 2006 and delivered the strongest movie in Mission: Impossible III with end-to-end action and a compelling story. The fourth installment is produced by Abrams and directed by Brad Bird (The Incredibles), who shows he can deliver a live-action film with fantastic pacing and intriguing characters. I guess Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is just like fine wine—he gets better with age. Not only do I think this is the best film of the bunch, the audio and video quality are demo-worthy with fabulous detail, rich colors, and one of the most engaging Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtracks available on Blu-ray.
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David Vaughn Posted: Apr 10, 2012 6 comments

Director Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest filmmakers of his generation, and he knows how to capture an audience's attention and keep it riveted to the screen. While War Horse isn't one of his best pictures, it does create an emotional bond to the main character—a horse—and we get to follow his journey from his humble beginnings through his adventure in the First World War. The cinematography is fantastic, but it's the DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack that makes this a demo-worthy disc, with pinpoint imaging and some of the most intense LFE since Saving Private Ryan.
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David Vaughn Posted: Mar 30, 2012 0 comments

September 11, 2001, is a day that I doubt anyone in the world will ever forget. For young Oskar, it was the day he lost his best friend—his dad. Based on the bestseller by Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is an emotional rollercoaster about a preteen trying to cope with the loss of his father in his own unique way. I enjoyed the film a lot and was especially impressed with the AVC video encode with its outstanding level of detail and rich color saturation. The enveloping DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack is no slouch either and features crisp dialog and pinpoint imaging.
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David Vaughn Posted: Mar 23, 2012 0 comments

Director Paul W.S. Anderson isn't what you would call an A-list talent and he stoops to an all-time low with The Three Musketeers. The classic novel from Alexandre Dumas is butchered beyond believe with horrendous dialog, wooden acting, and some of the most mind-numbing suspension of belief ever witnessed in cinema (a 17th century airship battle—really?). While the 3D is a serviceable effort, the 2D encode is so good you'll want to put the glasses away and relish some of the most amazing detail you've ever seen from a Blu-ray. Not to be outshined is the outstanding DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack that features pinpoint discrete effects and jaw-dropping imaging. If you're looking for some eye and ear candy to demo your system then this would be a great addition to your library.
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David Vaughn Posted: Mar 20, 2012 1 comments

As a product of the Muppets generation I had high hopes for their return to the silver screen and eventually Blu-ray, but color me very disappointed. While the technical aspects of the Blu-ray are pure reference-quality with amazing detail, vibrant colors, and enveloping surround sound, the script leaves a lot to be desired with uninspiring human characters, a paint by numbers script, and middling musical numbers—and no, I don't think "Man or Muppet" should have won the Oscar. My kids have generally liked the Muppet productions but were just as disappointed in this one as I was, but at least it looked and sounded great and is a worthy candidate for showing off your gear.

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