Blu-ray Movie Reviews

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Chris Chiarella  |  Aug 12, 2022  |  1 comments
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Long before Lin-Manuel Miranda set the American Revolution to music, playwright Peter Stone and composer/lyricist Sherman Edwards gave us an entertaining history lesson of their own, set in 1776. An unpopular John Adams, poetic Thomas Jefferson, and impish Ben Franklin are focused on a future free of British oppression, despite the danger of such a declaration, but when the decision is made that such a vote must be unanimous, the challenge becomes much more difficult. While a far cry from the hip-hop beats of Hamilton, the songs here do a remarkable job of conveying facts and weaving a compelling story worth telling again and again.
Chris Chiarella  |  Aug 05, 2022  |  0 comments
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Those seeking an accurate account of notorious gangster Al Capone's downfall should continue their search elsewhere. But anyone wanting two thrilling hours of fact-influenced entertainment need look no further. Director Brian De Palma's artful take on Eliot Ness and his squad of incorruptible treasury agents on a quest to clean up Prohibition-era Chicago blends hard-hitting dialogue and career-best performances in an almost operatic tale of good versus evil.
Brandon A. DuHamel  |  Jul 29, 2022  |  2 comments
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Along with Melvin Van Peebles' Sweet Sweetback's Baadassss Song, Shaft helped launch the Seventies era of so-called "blaxploitation" films that would dominate the world of Black entertainment for nearly a decade. Directed by prominent Black photographer Gordon Parks with Richard Roundtree in the title role and featuring a sizzling soundtrack by Isaac Hayes, Shaft didn't quite fit the mold of its subsequent ilk.
Roger Kanno  |  Jul 22, 2022  |  0 comments
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The Northman is a stylish, brutal, and satisfyingly well-made film about a Viking prince named Amleth whose uncle murders his father and kidnaps his mother. He swears vengeance against his uncle and after locating him years later, devises a plan to exact his revenge, even though all is not as it seems. Writer-director Robert Eggers' is also the man behind the critically acclaimed The Lighthouse, a psychological thriller that can be challenging to watch at times. This film, while a little less disturbing and more accessible to squeamish viewers, still has its fair share of gory violence and frightening imagery.
Chris Chiarella  |  Jul 15, 2022  |  1 comments
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Batman movies keep evolving, changing and—surprisingly—getting better with each reboot, in one way or another. Director Tim Burton's Batman relied heavily upon its extreme art deco design to sweep away the goofiness of the Adam West TV incarnation, before that film series quickly descended into its own absurdity. Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy was the cure, finding ways to make believable the exploits of a vigilante dressed as a flying mouse fighting a clown and a scarecrow, owing in large part to inspired casting choices.
Josef Krebs  |  Jul 08, 2022  |  1 comments
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Based on incidents from writer-director Kenneth Branagh's own childhood in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and set against the outset of the Troubles in 1969, this bloody masterpiece—a joy from beginning to end—is a moving comic-tragedy on both personal and historical levels, one that's filled with warm sentiment, great Irish humor, and a touching sense of loss.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Jul 01, 2022  |  0 comments
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When on-the-run drifter Stanton Carlisle stumbles into a seedy, travelling carnival in the late 1930s, he begins an adventure that might not end well. Ingratiating himself with the show's resident fortune-telling act, he manages to develop a flair for reading people, a talent that naive audiences see as mind-reading. Eventually he sets off in search of fame and richer pickings along with Molly, the carny's electric-girl act (and the film's rare sympathetic character). He hits the top, performing for upscale audiences, but when he meets Dr. Lilith Ritter, a big-city psychiatrist with wealthy clients and her own way with a grift, he more than meets his match.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Jun 24, 2022  |  0 comments
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Based on the Broadway musical from Leonard Bernstein, Steven Sondheim, and Arthur Laurents, West Side Story involves two teenage gangs, one Anglo (the Jets) and the other Puerto Rican (the Sharks), that fight constantly over turf and ethnicity in the mean city streets of 1950s New York. When Jets-member Tony falls head-over-heels for Maria, the sister of a Shark, you don't need a roadmap to see where this will end up. Hint: Think Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
Brandon A. DuHamel  |  Jun 17, 2022  |  0 comments
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In The Matrix: Resurrections, Neo (Keanu Reeves) is a developer responsible for the most popular game trilogy, one that ponders what would happen if AI took over the world and we didn't realize it. In his everyday life, listless and disconnected, Neo is seeing a therapist called the Analyst (Neil Patrick Harris) who has been prescribing him blue pills so he can get his head right. Turns out that Neo is back in the Matrix and he doesn't know it, but he can feel it. Thankfully, people are trying to rescue him. They also stumble across something new in the Matrix, called "modals," where incidents from Neo's past are being replayed over and over, but the outcomes are slightly different each time.
Chris Chiarella  |  May 27, 2022  |  0 comments
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The title of Le cercle rouge is derived from a Buddhist proverb about people coming together in fateful encounters—a theme pertinent to recently released convict Corey (Alain Delon) who crosses paths with escaped suspect Vogel (Gian-Maria Volonte). Along with alcoholic ex-cop Jansen (Yves Montand), they team up for a big-franc jewel heist—sophisticated for its time—unaware that determined detective Mattei (André Bourvil) and his snitches are on their trail. While similarities inevitably exist, anyone expecting the visceral intensity of a more recent Heat or a Reservoir Dogs will be in for a surprise.
Chris Chiarella  |  May 20, 2022  |  0 comments
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Adult-skewing animation wasn't a new genre by 1981 (thank you, Ralph Bakshi), but was the world at that time ready for Heavy Metal? Inspired by the illustrated fantasy publication of the same name, this R-rated feature film served up a disparate series of sex-and-violence-filled short stories, loosely held together by the presence of a deadly mystical sphere called the Loc-Nar. Since each issue was an anthology, with assorted tales from a variety of creators, the range of dramatic tones and visual styles here perfectly captures the spirit of the magazine.
Chris Chiarella  |  May 06, 2022  |  0 comments
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Nostalgia--that "twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone" as Don Draper famously explained it--can be a potent ally to the modern filmmaker. With its risky and highly publicized meta-twist (which I won't spoil here, just in case), Spider-Man: No Way Home managed to complete director Jon Watts' arachno-trilogy on an epic scale, capping not only this story arc but one far grander, much as Avengers: Endgame did for the whole of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Chris Chiarella  |  Apr 29, 2022  |  1 comments
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Let's get right to the point: This new RoboCop boxed set gets my highest recommendation. For starters, director Paul Verhoeven's cheeky tale of a crimefighting cyborg is still thrilling, still funny, and still uniquely satisfying.
Chris Chiarella  |  Apr 22, 2022  |  0 comments
The Godfather, 175 mins.
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The Godfather: Part II, 201 mins.
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The Godfather: Coda, 158 mins.
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The Godfather still kills. At a recent theatrical re-release marking the 50th anniversary of the first film in the series adapted from Mario Puzo's bestseller, I witnessed the audience hanging on every emotional nuance set forth by director Francis Ford Coppola. Once the highest-grossing film of all time, this operatic tale of the Corleone crime family boasts bigger-than-life characters doing despicable things, spouting irresistible dialogue, and backing it up with copious violence. Part II is both prequel and sequel, with characters new and old seen through a fresh lens in another grand story: the "origin" of Don Vito Corleone, interwoven with son Michael's attempted business expansion into pre-Castro Cuba. Part III was reimagined and recut as Mario Puzo's The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone in 2020. While improved over past versions, it's by far the weakest of the lot, an outlier and a vain attempt to recapture past glory.

Roger Kanno  |  Apr 08, 2022  |  0 comments
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Halloween Kills, the twelfth film in the Halloween franchise, picks up immediately following the events in the 2018 reboot of the original film of the same name. These latest entries were directed by David Gordon Green with a third installment, Halloween Ends, also to be directed by Green, planned for release later in 2022.

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