BLU-RAY MOVIE REVIEWS

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Fred Kaplan Posted: Oct 29, 2014 0 comments
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Is Y Tu Mamá También (rough translation: So’s your mama) a wry and trenchant story about class, friendship, sexuality, and globalization in a rapidly changing Mexico—or is it a gussied-up piece of soft porn? Both, I think, but it’s all done so affably and naturally (the sociology, the politics, and the porn) that it comes off as a work of great charm and comedy and sadness. A gorgeous young married woman and two rambunctious teenage boys—best friends, one wealthy, one poor but aspiring—take off on a road trip to Mexico’s rural beaches.
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Chris Chiarella Posted: Oct 29, 2014 0 comments
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Christopher Nolan’s Oscar-winning go-to cinematographer Wally Pfister makes his directorial debut with this fantastical tale of a 21st-century ghost in the machine. Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) believes that mankind is on the verge of a new order of artificial intelligence. It involves “transcendence,” whereby the electrical impulses of the brain—the emotions, memories, and ideas that make up our consciousness—are uploaded into a supercomputer. And after Will is shot by a member of a radical neo-luddite group (no, seriously), that’s exactly what he does to himself, losing his physical form and becoming a being of pure software.
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Chris Chiarella Posted: Oct 22, 2014 0 comments
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At its best, science fiction sparks the imagination, inspiring the question, “What if…?” And in the world of cinema, this enthusiasm gives way to conjecture, even debate: Remember the decades of geek chatter about the version of Blade Runner that might have been, eventually leading to Ridley Scott’s Final Cut? We come away from Frank Pavich’s remarkable documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune with that same excitement. The second half of that title is no doubt familiar, either as Frank Herbert’s seminal novel or as the much-reviled 1984 film by David Lynch that it eventually became. The first part, not so much: Chilean-born filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky is perhaps best known for the surreal Western El Topo, widely considered the first “midnight movie” for its offbeat appeal.
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Josef Krebs Posted: Oct 22, 2014 0 comments
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Is man ruled by heaven or his own will? Is the great flood coming again? Does man deserve to survive? Often defying logic, this mythological story where miracles occur regularly explores such questions. Noah, who follows the ways of God and respects fellow creatures, is conservationist, vegetarian, but not pacifist, slaughtering those who oppose the Lord’s work. Those, the descendants of Cain, have created cities, ripping minerals from the land to forge weapons and armor. But the land is dying, and the cities are dead. And since selfish man has broken the world and exploits other creatures, God decides to annihilate humans. This, once the family is isolated on the ark and all special effects are done with, sets off a smaller, more intimate drama closer to Greek tragedy with sons murderously set against father.
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David Vaughn Posted: Oct 15, 2014 0 comments
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U.S. Air Marshal Bill Marks is assigned to a transatlantic flight from New York to London, but the seemingly routine assignment is anything but. Shortly after takeoff, he starts receiving cryptic text messages on his secure government phone informing him that a passenger will die every 20 minutes unless $150 million is transferred into an offshore bank account. When people start dropping like flies, Marks frantically tries to find the killer, but he always seems to be one step behind him.
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Josef Krebs Posted: Oct 15, 2014 0 comments
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What makes a man a man and not a robot? This is the question at the heart of RoboCop. People can feel, preventing them from hurting a child, where a robot won’t care. But the manufacturer of all this equipment, OmniCorp, argues that humans can also feel fear, anger, despair, and disillusion—and can be corrupted. The way OmniCorp decides to circumvent the law is to combine the body of a robot with the brain of a man.
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 10, 2014 0 comments
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In the first 15 minutes of Pompeii, I wondered if it was heading toward a mashup of Gladiator and The Horse Whisperer. But the horsey part turned out to be just a minor plot (such as it is) driver. The lead character had been a slave since childhood, begins as a star sword-to-hand fighter in a backwater Britannia arena, has a seething grudge against the Romans for killing his family, soon becomes a gladiator in Pompeii, pals up with another gladiator (a big African, natch), and together they score a major victory in the arena against a faux Roman army in front of a vile, powerful Roman senator. Sound familiar?
Joe
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Anthony Chiarella Posted: Oct 10, 2014 0 comments
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Hard-drinking, chain-smoking ex-convict Joe (Nicolas Cage) frequents hookers, instigates deadly dog fights, and makes his living managing a gang of day laborers charged with deforesting a Texas backwater—hardly a soft-hearted guy. Yet, when 15-year-old Gary (Tye Sheridan) comes looking for a job, hell-raising Joe quickly befriends the boy and eventually risks his life to save him from his violent, alcoholic father, Wade (Gary Poulter, who died shortly after the film’s release). Heralded as Cage’s return to serious dramatic roles, Joe is primarily a character study of its hero, portrayed with a gritty realism that magnifies the brutality of the film and the desperation of its subjects.
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Corey Gunnestad Posted: Oct 01, 2014 0 comments
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To commemorate the 10th anniversary of its release, Oliver Stone returns once again to his much maligned and misunderstood epic. This is officially the fourth cut of the film, but before you grouse, hear me out. The progression follows thus: The original Theatrical Cut was Stone’s epic vision pared down to a marketable length to appease the studio executives; the Director’s Cut was the result of Stone yielding to pressure to appease the masses and their aversion to the film’s blatant homo-eroticism; and the Revisited Final Cut was a tenacious filmmaker getting the chance to finally realize his passion-project in the version that he originally intended audiences to see. What’s curious, though, about this new Ultimate Cut is that it differs only slightly from the Revisited Final Cut and runs just eight minutes shorter.
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Chris Chiarella Posted: Sep 25, 2014 0 comments
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In true comic book (excuse me, graphic novel ) fashion, Rise of an Empire presents the “origin” of the evil god-king of Persia and his hatred of all things Greek. Set ten years before the Battle of Thermopylae, this wild prologue is very much in the wheelhouse of writer/artist Frank Miller, whose as-yet-unreleased Xerxes comic provides the basis for this follow-up to the epic 300. A great Athenian warrior named Themistokles sets this dark destiny in motion, and we leap forward a decade to the resulting Persian invasion of Greece. An older Themistokles takes to the seas to stand against Xerxes’ overwhelming naval forces, as led by the savage, mysterious Artemisia, their deadly clashes concurrent with the legendary sacrifice of King Leonidas and his brave fifteen-score Spartans.

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Josef Krebs Posted: Sep 19, 2014 0 comments
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Jack Ryan’s creator, writer Tom Clancy, had the hero of his first book, The Hunt for Red October, trying to outwit the Soviets during the Cold War. Shadow Recruit presents his back story, beginning with Jack still in his college years. Yet, surprisingly, it’s the 9/11 attacks that motivate him to take his analytical skills to Afghanistan to help fight the war. Nevertheless, it works. And instead of staying behind a desk, Jack’s soon out in a helicopter with soldiers on a mission, getting shot down, badly injuring his spine, but saving two of his men. So it’s no surprise that, after heroically forcing himself to learn to walk again, he’s recruited by The Company.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Sep 18, 2014 0 comments
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I saw A Hard Day’s Night in a theater in 1964, when it first came out and I was 10 years old. I saw it three times, and it was pure joy. I felt the same sensation watching this fantastic Blu-ray transfer. Was it at least in part nostalgia? Probably, though it’s worth noting that the movie—which came out in August, six months after The Beatles’ appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show—is what won over our parents to the Fab Four: so smart, witty, and talented after all (traits that we kids had long appreciated). And my own kids, born two decades later, love the movie and the group too.
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Shane Buettner Posted: Sep 08, 2014 1 comments
Have You Heard About the Lonesome Loser?

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The Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis is a fascinating but bleak amalgam of people, places, and events at the dawn of the folk music scene in 1961 Greenwich Village, viewed through a visual pastiche inspired by the album cover for The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and a titular character who channels early folk institution Dave Van Ronk (in look and vocation, not temperament). While outrageously funny at times, with superbly chosen music exuberantly performed, this isn’t a farcical romp through the ’60s; it’s a black comedy about the artist versus the entertainment business that’s thematically reminiscent of the Coens’ polarizing Barton Fink.

Chris Chiarella Posted: Sep 03, 2014 1 comments
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After an onslaught of Real American Heroes and Robots in Disguise, we often meet a new toy-inspired movie with the lament, “It’s just a two-hour commercial!” And so it is with no small measure of shock and awe that I watched The Lego Movie. The immensely talented filmmaking duo of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller has managed to tell an engaging story with boundless wit, originality, and even audacity, while still embracing what we know and love about these little bricks and the many associated characters.
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Josef Krebs Posted: Aug 28, 2014 0 comments
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The Dark World launches with a history lesson telling of an ancient battle between the Asgardians and the Dark Elves on their home world of Svartalfheim. The Elves, led by Malekith, not only use enhanced warriors called the Kursed, but also the Aether—a terrible force that gives them great power. Although Malekith is vanquished, the Convergence—an alignment of planets allowing travel between them—permits his return. This is all well and good and very Lord of the Rings-y, but thereafter the film’s exposition just keeps on coming; and unlike LOTR, which gave visual presentations, The Dark World relies on the mellifluous voices of Anthony Hopkins and Idris Elba intoning endlessly about unlikely mythology, leaving you begging for someone to just get on with the action. Once things get rolling, though, there are plenty of passages of great home theater.

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