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BLU-RAY MOVIE REVIEWS

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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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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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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 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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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 23, 2011 0 comments
The Pritchett clan has Jay (Ed O'Neill) as the patriarch who's married to his much younger Columbian wife Gloria (Sofia Vergara). Along for the ride is her old soul 11-year-old son, Manny (Rico Rodriguez), who is wise beyond his years but doesn't exactly mesh with his stepfather. Jay has two grown children from his first marriage, Claire (Julie Bowen) and Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), who have families of their own. Each family has their unique traits and when they all get together they form a very interesting and hilarious modern family.

I generally don't watch much TV, but Modern Family is a show that hooked me last year on Blu-ray and I couldn't wait to revisit the show on Blu-ray. This is by far the funniest show I've seen in years and the interactions between the characters are priceless. Whether it's Gloria's accent, Manny's phobias, or Jay's frustration with modern society, I'm laughing my rear-end off every episode. In fact, my wife and I laugh so much our kids have requested we don't watch the show if they are trying to sleep because we keep waking them up with our laughter!

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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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Corey Gunnestad Posted: Sep 21, 2011 0 comments
It’s a long-held myth that the average human being can access only about 10 percent of their brain capacity at any given time. For me, it happens to be true, and that’s on a good day, but I digress. Now imagine if you could take a pill that would give you complete and total brain function. The possibilities would be, well, limitless.

This is a drug that’s so new it doesn’t even have a street name yet. This is life on fast forward, it’s David Fincher on acid, and it’s one hell of a ride. When the effect wears off, though, it’s straight back to Stupidville, and you’re royally screwed if your supply runs out. Bradley Cooper is the washed-up writer who happens upon the drug in a chance meeting, and his life takes some very drastic turns—for better and worse.

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David Vaughn Posted: Sep 21, 2011 21 comments
George Lucas had a dream of becoming a professional race car driver, but thankfully for the millions of Star Wars fans, he didn't perish in a horrific car accident after his high school graduation. Looking for a new passion, Lucas attended the film school at USC, won a scholarship to observe the making Francis Ford Coppola's Finian's Rainbow, and the pair eventually formed their own studio, American Zoetrope. Their first film was a feature-length version of Lucas's student film THX 1138, but Lucas eventually formed his own studio, Lucasfilm Ltd., and made American Graffiti, which went on to win one Golden Globe and garner five Oscar nominations.

Shortly thereafter, he began working on his next project that turned the small independent filmmaker from Northern California into a Hollywood legend. By luck (or fate) Lucas traded his guaranteed director's salary for a 40% share of the box office and all the merchandising rights (t-shirts, toys, etc.) in order to get Star Wars produced. The rest, as they say, is history.

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David Vaughn Posted: Sep 20, 2011 0 comments
Philip K. Dick struggled to make a living as a science fiction writer through the majority of his life. It wasn’t until shortly before his death that Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was adapted to the screen and became the classic Blade Runner. After his death in 1982, nine additional Dick stories have turned into feature films, including box-office successes Total Recall and Minority Report. His latest adaptation is from his short story The Adjustment Team, in which humanoid creatures can influence people’s lives without them knowing in order to ensure that they comply with a mysterious Plan orchestrated by the Chairman.

Matt Damon stars as David Norris, a popular New York congressman who’s a shoo-in to win a U.S. Senate seat in 2006 until a political scandal derails his campaign. Before he gives his concession speech, he ventures into a hotel bathroom and is interrupted when Elise (Emily Blunt) emerges from a stall and encourages him to be more honest. Her advice inspires David to drop the political speech and instead ad-lib from the heart. Thanks to this honesty, he becomes the front runner for the 2010 election. According to the Plan, David and Elise are never to meet again, but when a worker at the Adjustment Bureau screws up, the two run into each other on a city bus, and the Bureau will do whatever it takes to ensure that the Plan gets back on track.

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