BLU-RAY MOVIE REVIEWS

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Chris Chiarella Posted: Nov 25, 2014 0 comments
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Peter Parker’s a recent high school graduate with an awesome girlfriend and—thanks to a bite from an experimental spider—has become the super-powered guardian angel of New York City, and quite the folk hero. But Pete’s good fortune seldom lasts, and the return of his boyhood chum Harry Osborn quickly takes a dark turn—or is that just the new villain Electro sucking all the juice out of the Big Apple?
Chris Chiarella Posted: Nov 19, 2014 0 comments
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I guess people really like to watch robots breaking stuff. Transformers: Age of Extinction was another worldwide hit for the franchise, repeating more of the same paranoid nonsense (and lame dialogue and unfunny jokes) as its three predecessors. This time, a couple of suits decide they can build and control their own Transformers, using technology stolen from the evil Decepticons. How do you think that works out? The human ally this time is an underdog inventor (Mark Wahlberg) with a cutie-patootie daughter, in a mildly disturbing riff on Beauty and the Beast.
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Chris Chiarella Posted: Nov 13, 2014 0 comments
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Thawed in the modern day at the end of Captain America: The First Avenger and revealed to the world to be as brave as ever in The Avengers, World War II hero Cap (Chris Evans) is now working for S.H.I.E.L.D., the super-secret, super-powerful organization of good guys. But his Greatest Generation standards of right and wrong are often a square peg in the round hole of our post-9/11 world. Case in point, the launch of a new ultimate weapon calls into question the meaning of freedom, security, and whether one must be sacrificed to preserve the other.
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David Vaughn Posted: Nov 12, 2014 0 comments
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Set sometime in the future in a world devastated by war, a group of human survivors has fortified the city of Chicago as their home base, and in order to keep the peace, they have separated the populace into five distinct groups based upon their personality traits. Candor is for those who seek the truth, Erudite is the intellectuals, Amity is for peace, Abnegation is for the selfless, and Dauntless is filled with thrill seekers who also serve as the security for the community. When Tris comes of age and must choose her “career,” her aptitude test shows her not fitting into one group. She is a Divergent (think square peg going into the round hole), and in the supposed utopian society, this causes problems—and all hell is going to break loose.
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David Vaughn Posted: Nov 05, 2014 0 comments
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An alien being comes to Earth and assumes the form of a gorgeous and seductive young woman and proceeds to drive around Scotland in a cargo van trying to lure unsuspecting male victims back to her lair. Once there, she begins to strip onto an inky-black floor walking backwards into the room. Hypnotized by her beauty, the men strip as they slowly sink into a black pool of death so their bodies can be harvested for some unexplained nefarious purpose. As the film progresses, our alien vixen begins to change and wants to explore what being human is about and is introduced to an Earthly phenomenon known as karma.
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Anthony Chiarella Posted: Nov 04, 2014 0 comments
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Legendary DEA agent John “Breacher” Wharton (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his task force infiltrate a drug cartel and confiscate $10 million, which immediately disappears. Caught between suspicious Feds and vengeful drug lords, members of Arnold’s team start turning up dead…but who’s killing them? Schwarzenegger excels as both hero and anti-hero in one of the most complex and demanding roles of his career. David Ayer’s directorial style—war correspondent realism with a Michael Mann vibe—is highly flattering to both stars and subject matter.
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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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