BLU-RAY MOVIE REVIEWS

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David Vaughn Posted: Jan 22, 2016 1 comments
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As a youth, Frank Walker is full of hope and aspiration, which is almost snuffed out when his entry into the 1964 World’s Fair science competition is shot down by one of the judges before he even gets a chance to enter it. But fate has a different plan for Frank, and with the help of Athena, a mysterious young girl, he’s taken to a magical place where his hopes and dreams can come true. Fifty years later, we meet Casey Newton, a science-minded teen who dreams of going to the stars and will stop at nothing to sabotage NASA’s efforts to dismantle the last remaining launch pad—that is, until the police catch her. Upon posting bail, she finds a mysterious pin among her belongings. When she touches it, she gets a glimpse of the magical world of Tomorrowland, a futuristic city that’s light-years ahead of Earth technologically.
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David Vaughn Posted: Jan 22, 2016 1 comments
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Fourteenth-century prince Vlad Dracula ushers off on a religious crusade to battle his enemies, leaving the love of his life in his gothic castle. Before he returns victoriously, the evil Turks send word to his bride that he has died in battle. Beset with grief, she commits suicide, and upon seeing her lifeless body, Dracula denounces the church in a fit of rage and becomes an undead man whose eternal existence requires him to feed off the blood of other living creatures. Four hundred years later, a London real-estate broker visits Dracula in Transylvania. When Dracula happens upon a picture of the agent’s fiancée and notices her striking resemblance to his deceased bride, he must travel to London to gaze upon her beauty for himself and rediscover true love.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jan 22, 2016 0 comments
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A Room with a View is one of the most romantic films of all time—a funny, leisurely, unabashed, but also ironic celebration of “beauty, joy, love,” (as its youthful hero shouts from a flimsy treetop in the Italian countryside). Based on E.M. Forster’s novel, it remains the most successful film by Merchant Ivory, the enterprise consisting of producer Ismail Merchant, director James Ivory, and screenwriter Ruth Prawler Jhabvala. I’d found (and still find) many of their other movies dull, so what jelled with this one? The infectiously gorgeous setting—Florence, its surroundings, and the estates of southeastern England—must have played some role. The actors are as fine an ensemble as any assembled (besides the three listed below, Denholm Elliott, Daniel Day-Lewis, Judi Dench, Simon Callow, Rupert Graves).
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Brandon A. DuHamel Posted: Jan 15, 2016 0 comments
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Directors Mark Linfield and Alastair Fothergill (Earth) return to Disneynature with the beautifully filmed documentary Monkey Kingdom, which follows a troop of macaques living in the ruins of a Sri Lankan temple. The story hones in on a female named Maya and her newborn son Kip. The lowborn Maya must work her way through the complex hierarchy of the macaques in her struggle to survive and feed her son.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jan 15, 2016 1 comments
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Timbuktu is a film of soaring beauty, sly humor, and urgent sorrow. An Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Film, it should have won if the actual winner, the Polish masterpiece Ida, hadn’t. Shot in Mauritania, which stands in for Mali (of which Timbuktu is capital), it unspools the tragic ways in which a peaceful village is robbed of family, tradition, and the stuff of a full life when occupied by armed jihadists bearing the black flag of ISIL. At first, the dissonance seems comical: clueless outsiders, proclaiming a ban on music, soccer, and exposed female flesh, while camels block the roads and the locals lounge indifferent.
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Chris Chiarella Posted: Dec 23, 2015 0 comments
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In an era when Glee was everywhere, moviegoers understandably didn’t flock to see the seemingly similar Pitch Perfect on the big screen, but Blu-ray/DVD and TV showings ultimately brought the charming comedy the audience it deserved. Three years later, the mettlesome young songstresses from Barden University are back, eager to win an international competition with the help of a new recruit. Returning co-star/producer Elizabeth Banks also makes a triumphant directorial debut with Pitch Perfect 2, seamlessly maintaining the ongoing franchise’s breezily mean-spirited humor while staging many memorable new cover versions of eclectic pop tunes.
Chris Chiarella Posted: Dec 18, 2015 0 comments
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Sequels can be a tough nut. Age of Ultron is of course the follow-up to 2012’s The Avengers, but along the way, there were four other Marvel Universe movies that apparently need to be acknowledged here, coupled with the laborious task of tying in TV series and setting up movies yet to come. Throw in too many characters and some extraneous subplots, and the result is a sequel more exhausting than entertaining.
Corey Gunnestad Posted: Dec 11, 2015 4 comments
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If Disneyland once got sued because (it was alleged) Winnie the Pooh had accidentally slapped a young guest while posing for photos, it boggles the mind to contemplate all the lawsuits Jurassic World would have incurred after the devastation depicted in this film.

In the 22 years and three films since Jurassic Park re-introduced living dinosaurs to the world, there has been rampant chaos, carnage, and death at every turn. Still, it seems the harsh lessons of playing God and tampering with Mother Nature have gone completely unheeded yet again. Lo and behold, another attempt at a state-of-the-art theme-park zoo of cloned dinosaurs has made its debut for the paying public: Jurassic World is now open for business, and the park is packed with 22,000 eager tourists. But this time, all the bugs are worked out, and the past mistakes have been corrected. What could possibly go wrong?

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Anthony Chiarella Posted: Dec 11, 2015 1 comments
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A lofty undertaking of the History Channel, Texas Rising chronicles the one-time republic’s struggle for independence from Mexico. Lavishly produced, this miniseries features an all-star cast anchored by Emmy-winner Bill Paxton. Fleeting cameos by marquis actors exemplify the meticulous detail and massive budget that attended this production. Unfortunately, this great American saga and the men who empowered it are poorly served here. The acting is stiff and fails to evoke empathy or interest, due largely to scripting choices and mundane dialogue.
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Chris Chiarella Posted: Dec 07, 2015 0 comments
As 2015 draws to a close and gift-giving holidays loom, you can take comfort in knowing that Blu-ray is still the king of physical media, and plenty of studios continue to go above and beyond to release extra-special editions of movies, music, and beloved TV series sure to make a lasting impression. Here are 10 for your consideration.
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Corey Gunnestad Posted: Dec 04, 2015 0 comments
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After 9-11, the National Security Agency developed a top-secret surveillance program called Stellar Wind, in which the NSA could arbitrarily and without restriction, monitor and record all citizens’ communications. In early 2013, a curious correspondence of encrypted e-mails began between a documentary filmmaker and an anonymous source known only as Citizenfour. Documentarian Laura Poitras was already under government scrutiny after making films about the U.S. war in Iraq and Guantanamo. Her mysterious correspondent turned out to be none other than Edward Snowden, the senior government employee in the intelligence community and future alleged traitor to the United States.
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Nov 25, 2015 0 comments
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Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful, warm-hearted girl named Ella, whose happiness is shattered when her mother dies. Her father later remarries to a stern widow, who moves in with her two cruel daughters and…

Unless you lived a deprived childhood, you already know the Cinderella story. The story goes back centuries, but to most of us today, it’s the 1950 Disney animated version that comes to mind when we think of it. Gone was the truly grim Brothers Grimm version, where the stepsisters cut off parts of their feet to try to fit into that glass slipper! Disney’s animated Cinderella was fiercely kid-friendly and certainly well done, though it suffered a bit in comparison to the genuine Disney masterpieces that preceded it: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Bambi.

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David Vaughn Posted: Nov 20, 2015 1 comments
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After their last adventure in London, the team headed by Dominic Toretto has made a new enemy in ex–black ops assassin Deckard Shaw, the brother of Owen Shaw, the mercenary they just took down. With revenge on his mind, Shaw systematically targets every one of the crew for death, and they must band together in order to survive—which isn’t a guarantee. Help comes from Mr. Nobody, a secret U.S. government agent who is willing to trade support for the gang as long as they can capture Ramsey, a hacker who has created a technology that will make finding Shaw a piece of cake.
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Chris Chiarella Posted: Nov 13, 2015 0 comments
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After the gasoline (and almost everything else) has dried up, only the baddest of badasses have managed to survive in the barren future of Mad Max: Fury Road. And surviving is enough for Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy stepping into Mel Gibson’s well-worn leather), a former cop with but one stubborn shred of decency remaining. He’s a handsome enough actor, but he finds himself behind another Bane-like mask for much of his screen time: Captured, used as an unwilling blood donor, and thrust into the center of a deadly pursuit by three rival warlords, he unexpectedly finds himself protecting a cargo more precious than “juice,” with a long and furious road ahead.
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Corey Gunnestad Posted: Nov 06, 2015 0 comments
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Remember all those humorous aphorisms concerning Chuck Norris? You know, “Chuck Norris is so tough… yadda yadda yadda.” Well, if there’s a worthy contender to seize that crown of ultimate machismo from him, it would have to be Liam Neeson. Seriously, look at the guy’s rap sheet of action flicks in the last ten years, and you’ll see a body count that would rival that of the Black Plague. Yes, the man who was Oskar Schindler could now take on the Expendables all at once at still come out grinning. And his string of gritty action thrillers continues with Run All Night.

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