BLU-RAY MOVIE REVIEWS

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David Vaughn Posted: Oct 28, 2011 0 comments
Steve Rogers, a frail and patriotic young man, wants nothing more than to serve his country by joining the Army in order to fight the evil Nazis. On multiple occasions, he's been deemed unfit for service and is rejected, but he refuses to give up trying. On his latest attempt, he catches the eye of Dr. Abraham Erskine, a scientist working for the Army who has developed a serum that enhances one's muscles, brain power, reflexes, and mental abilities in order to create a "super soldier."

Thus far, the movie studios haven't had a lot of success in converting 2D films into 3D in post-production and delivering satisfying results. Fortunately, the 2D-3D conversion here is one of the best I've seen. Separation between objects is exemplary, and the added depth enhances the texture and intimacy of the cinematography. Even more impressive is the DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack that features reference-quality dynamic range, an engaging score from Alan Silvestri, and plenty of window-rattling explosions.

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David Vaughn Posted: Oct 26, 2011 0 comments
On a remote tropical island, an amazing living theme park becomes a game of survival for humans foolhardy enough to set foot on it. Meticulously recreated dinosaurs spring to astonishing life as a multimillionaire (Richard Attenborough) bankrolls an effort to use advanced DNA technology to bring dinosaurs back to life. When an employee shuts down the security system for personal monetary gain all hell breaks loose when the dinosaurs escape forcing the visitors to play a game of cat and mouse with the deadly prehistoric creatures.

Throughout movie history there are certain films that change the way movies are made and Jurassic Park certainly qualifies due to its cutting-edge use of CGI effects. Even to this day, the dinosaurs depicted in the film look so lifelike it's kind of creepy. When it hit theaters in 1993, it blew audiences away and became an instant classic.

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David Vaughn Posted: Oct 23, 2011 1 comments
Captain Jack Sparrow is back with a new adventure on the high seas as he's on the hunt for the Fountain of Youth. After a daring escape from the King of England, Jack becomes enslaved on Blackbeard's ship and learns that a woman from his past has some hidden daddy issues that could cost him dearly. In pursuit are Sparrow's nemesis Barbossa and a separate Spanish armada, who have their own nefarious plans for Ponce De Leon's legendary spring.

3D conversions are all the rage in Hollywood, but thankfully this isn't one of them and it shows from the outset while Jack is loose on the streets of London. Detail is excellent in both foregrounds and backgrounds and separation between objects adds a lot of depth to the image. But as good as the 3D is, it's the DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack that's the star of the show. It features plenty of discrete effects, strong bass response, and virtually unlimited dynamic range.

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David Vaughn Posted: Oct 14, 2011 0 comments
Deep in the heart of the African savanna, a rivalry between two lion prides takes place while a cheetah family tries to stick together. Mara is an endearing lion cub who strives to grow up with her mother's strength, spirit, and wisdom, but an accident threatens to make her an orphan. Then there's Sita, a fearless cheetah and single mother of five newborns who must try and keep her cubs alive until they can fend for themselves. Finally, there's Fang, the leader of the pride who must defend his family from a rival lion clan that is looking to take over his land.

This is the first Disneynature production I've had a chance to see, and while the narrative is geared toward younger audiences, I still enjoyed it. The young cheetah and lion cubs are adorable, and I kept wondering how the filmmakers were able to get such close-up images. The story can turn a tad dark at times, but Disney provides a great vehicle to introduce kids to the African savanna.

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David Vaughn Posted: Oct 12, 2011 0 comments
Three friends, Nick (Jason Bateman, Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), and Dales (Charlie Day), are slaving away at their jobs in Los Angeles and have one thing in common; they each have horrible bosses. One night they hatch a foolproof plan to murder them and hire an ex-con (Jamie Foxx) as an adviser. Well, he isn't what they expected and their foolproof plan has a very likely chance to get them thrown behind bars for the rest of their lives.

At some point in your life, you're going to end up with a horrible boss. In fact, I've been unfortunate enough to have a few of them over the years. But as bad as things were, I never once contemplated murder (torture, maybe, but never murder!). Anyway, I found this movie to be mostly entertaining for the first two acts and I actually felt a little something for the characters. Sadly, the third act falls apart with childish antics and plenty of foul language.

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David Vaughn Posted: Oct 10, 2011 1 comments
Roald Dahl's classic story tells the tale of five kids who find a golden ticket that entitles them to visit the secretive Wonka Chocolate factory, where one worthy child will win a lifetime supply of chocolate. Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum), a poor kid who lives with his mother and two sets of grandparents in the shadow of the factory, is one of the lucky five. The others—well, let's just say they are the result of bad parenting and poor choices.

As a child, I never really connected with this film, but I've have grown to enjoy it as a parent. The behavior of the four "bad" kids provides extreme examples of what we often see in children today, and watching the film with my kids was a great way to teach them how not to behave. Charlie is a model child, and his virtuous behavior is a parent's dream. I think we all wish our children could be so respectful.

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David Vaughn Posted: Oct 07, 2011 0 comments
Former cop Brian O'Copnner (Paul Walker) and his girlfriend Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster) hookup with her fugitive brother Dom (Vin Diesel) and head to South America to elude the authorities. Tired of running, they assemble an elite team of top racers to help pull off one last job in order to secure enough cash for retirement, but when a hard-nosed federal agent (Dwayne Johnson) shows up in Rio de Janeiro, their job goes from hard to nearly impossible to complete.

Generally speaking, sequels tend to pale in comparison to the original, but here's a case where the fifth film in the series is actually the best. It all boils down to the screenplay, which has more of an Ocean's 11 tone than a racing-centric plot found in the previous films. Regardless, it's a lot of fun to watch and the spectacular audio and video help keep you on the edge of your seat.

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David Vaughn Posted: Oct 05, 2011 0 comments
Forced into exile by his evil Uncle Scar after the death of his father, young Simba hooks up with a meerkat named Timon and his warthog chum Pumbaa. Adopting their carefree lifestyle, Simba ignores his real responsibilities until he realizes his destiny and returns to the Pride Lands to stake his claim to the throne.

When The Lion King hit theaters in 1994, Disney had its third animation success in a row and solidified the fact that the studio had regained its hit-creating mojo. The voice cast is outstanding, the story is inspiring, and the soundtrack is just as fun today as it was last century. Looking to capitalize on the 3D craze hitting Hollywood, Disney converted the hand-drawn animated film into the new format with surprisingly good results. While it doesn't look quite as good as Beauty and the Beast, it fares much better than some live-action conversions I've seen.

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David Vaughn Posted: Oct 03, 2011 0 comments
Belle (voiced by Paige O'Hara) is a bright and beautiful young woman who finds escape from her ordinary life by reading books. When her father is taken prisoner by a cursed young prince (Robby Benson), Belle comes to the rescue and agrees to take her father's place. With the help of the castle's enchanted staff, she sees beneath the Beast's exterior and discovers the heart and soul of a human prince.

Beauty and the Beast was the first animated film to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture (plus five other nominations) and won two Oscars for Best Original Song and Best Original Score. The talent behind the voices includes Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Potts, Jerry Orbach as Lumiere, the candelabra, and David Ogden Stiers as Cogsworth, the mantel clock. The story is engaging and filled with adventure, but it's the score by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman that makes this film a classic.

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David Vaughn Posted: Sep 30, 2011 3 comments
In 1959, a UFO crash-landed on the moon and it was the true catalyst for space race between the US and Russia as they hurried to investigate the incident. In present day, the Autobots become aware of the crash and race to the moon to do their own investigation. Onboard the spacecraft they discover a deactivated Sentinel Prime who can only be reactivated by Optimus Prime, who is curious what happened so many years ago.

I wasn't a big fan of the original Transformers movie and skipped the critically panned sequel, but had heard good things about this one and was willing to give it a chance. The premise actually had some promise, but everything I disliked about the first movie is repeated here—shallow plot, poor acting, senseless characters, and a never-ending third act that repeats many of the action scenes witnessed in the first two acts. Granted, Michael Bay doesn't make these films to win Academy Awards for Best Picture, but he'll certainly never win a Best Editor award because the bloated run time clocks in at 154 fatiguing minutes.

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Joshua Zyber Posted: Sep 28, 2011 0 comments
According to the painstaking research I performed before writing this review (i.e., looking at Wikipedia for all of five minutes), Charlotte Brontë’s proto-feminist novel (I cribbed that phrase right from the wiki, FYI) had been adapted at least 15 times for the silver screen and an additional 10 for television before this year’s revival. That’s to say nothing of the other numerous attempts to sequelize, prequelize, or retell the story in literary form. What is it about this book that inspires so many people to tell the story until someone finally gets it right?

The latest Jane Eyre comes from director Cary Fukunaga, an American filmmaker of Swedish and Japanese descent whose only previous feature was the Mexican gangster film Sin Nombre. In other words, he’s exactly the first person you’d think of to make a British period romance starring an Australian actress and German-Irish leading man. The mind reels.

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David Vaughn Posted: Sep 28, 2011 1 comments
City-boy Ren (Kevein Bacon) moves to the small Midwestern town of Beaumont and quickly learns that dancing and popular rock music has been banned. He befriends Ariel Moore (Lori Singer), the daughter of the popular preacher who's leading the charge for the "no fun zone," and a line is drawn in the sand between hometown values and teenage fun.

Footloose is one of those 80's films that stir-up a lot of memories for people in my age demographic. Back in 1984 it was wildly popular due to the hip music, fun dancing, and anti-establishment message. There wasn't a guy I knew who didn't want to be like Ren, but I'm positive I wouldn't approve of my teenage daughter dating a guy like him today!

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Corey Gunnestad Posted: Sep 26, 2011 0 comments
On the evening of April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was shot and killed in Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. Twelve days later, his assassin John Wilkes Booth, perished while barricading himself in a barn rather than surrender to the Union Army. In the tumultuous weeks following the assassination, a web of conspiracy was uncovered, and a number of Booth’s accomplices were arrested and put on trial.

The conspirator of the film’s title is Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), the woman who owned the boarding house where the accomplices met in secret and whose son was closely tied to Booth. Blinded by revenge and an unrelenting desire to put the matter to rest, the American State Department completely disregarded the rule of law and Surratt’s constitutional rights in their fervor to secure a conviction. James McAvoy deftly plays Frederick Aiken, the attorney assigned to defend Surratt and who ends up fighting overwhelming opposition from the seats of power in his quest for a fair trial.

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David Vaughn Posted: Sep 26, 2011 2 comments
Set behind the scenes of the BBC newsroom as an investigative news program is launched, the drama plots the personal lives, professional interplay, and jealous ambition between aspiring journalist Freddie Lyon (Ben Whishaw), ambitious young producer Bel Rowley (Romola Garai), and Hector Madden (Dominic West), the face and lead anchorman of this rising television news team. A love triangle ensues and the intense ambitions between the rising news team plays out against the backdrop of a mysterious murder and Freddie's controversial and dangerous investigation.

The BBC has been churning out some pretty entertaining programs lately with Sherlock and now The Hour. This six episode set starts off very slow and it almost lost me, but I was hooked once I got to know the characters and Freddie began to unravel the mystery behind the murder.

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Fred Kaplan Posted: Sep 23, 2011 1 comments
Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing is a nifty film noir with brisk dialogue (by noir novelist Jim Thompson) and brushstroke characters. It features a taut narrative within a daringly fitful structure (the plot starts over and over, charting the events from different points of view, leading up to the climax) and an ending straight out of O. Henry. The story line is fairly conventional—a racetrack heist, the mastermind who devises it, and the gang of misfits who try to pull it off. But the theme—human foibles trumping the best-laid plans—anticipates many Kubrick films to come, notably Paths of Glory, Dr. Strangelove, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. This is also the first film where Kubrick, just 28 years old, displays a master director’s touch: a keen visual sense, both for the composition of the frame and for the fluid camera motion (it seems to be moving almost constantly). The acting is a bit outsized, but so it is in most Kubricks, and as with most, it fits the movie’s mood. This one marks his first association with Sterling Hayden, who’s very fine as the methodical planner: mordantly witty, slow-burning with desire to break through life’s trappings, and in the end stoic about his prospects.

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