BLU-RAY MOVIE REVIEWS

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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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Anthony Chiarella Posted: Oct 29, 2015 0 comments
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After assassinating Congo’s Minister of Mining in 2006, Jim Terrier (Sean Penn) must flee the country, leaving the woman he loves (Jasmine Trinca) to his friend Felix (Javier Bardem). Eight years later, Terrier returns, only to discover that he has become a target. Searching for answers as he struggles to stay alive, Terrier manages to either murder or precipitate the death of everyone he meets, including his closest friends. In the end, with the help of a clever Interpol agent (Idris Elba), Terrier learns that his former employer is trying to eradicate all evidence of the crime—including him.
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Chris Chiarella Posted: Oct 23, 2015 0 comments
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Remember reading that Oscar winner and True Blood star Anna Paquin was going to reprise her role as the mutant Rogue in the most recent X-Men movie, Days of Future Past? And then the movie came out and she was in exactly two shots with nary a word of dialogue, and even that moment came a scant four-and-a-half minutes before the end? Well, there was in fact more planned for her, and the new “Rogue Cut” reinstates her scenes as part of a rethought, expanded version of the movie. To be frank, it’s largely the same story you’re probably used to. Rogue’s return has minimal impact on the plot, but there are lots of other little changes along the way too, successfully enhancing the overall drama.
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David Vaughn Posted: Oct 09, 2015 0 comments
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Picking up five days after the thrilling conclusion of Divergent, we find Tris and her companions in exile with the Amity group while they decide what their next move will be. Riddled with guilt over the death of her parents, Tris does her best to look strong, but she’s carrying around some serious emotional baggage. When the authorities finally catch up to her in the second act, the back story of the isolated community starts to make more sense, and as shocking as it sounds, Tris is the gateway to the past as well as their hope for the future, despite the Erudite’s leader doing her best to silence the rebellion.
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David Vaughn Posted: Oct 02, 2015 3 comments
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Computer programmer Caleb Smith wins an inter-company competition to spend a week at the remote estate of the company’s brilliant, yet quirky CEO and founder, Nathan Bateman. He soon learns that the vacation will be anything but when he’s coerced into signing a nondisclosure release in order to administer a Turing Test on a new AI program that could revolutionize the world. It turns out that the AI has been placed in a fully functional—and human-looking—robot named Ava, who has been locked in a glass enclosure and can’t be freed unless she proves to Smith and Bateman that she’s achieved full consciousness and is not just copying human behavior.

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