BLU-RAY MOVIE REVIEWS

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Josef Krebs  |  Jun 10, 2016  |  0 comments
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In 8th century China, the Tang dynasty, in decline, had built garrisons at the frontiers of its empire, but a hundred years later, some of those militarized provinces chose independence from the emperor. Weibo is the strongest, so a lovely assassin is sent to kill the head of its clan, Lord Tian. Made by Taiwanese writer-director Hsiao-Hsien Hou, The Assassin’s gorgeous, static imagery and characters, glacially slow-moving camera, and mood-filled silences are matched by the mysteries of the story that are only very gradually revealed, all of which evoke the poetic films of the great Andrei Tarkovsky.
Brandon A. DuHamel  |  Jun 10, 2016  |  1 comments
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Based on Michael Lewis’ non-fiction book, The Big Short brings together the ensemble cast of Steve Carell (who plays Mark Baum, a character based on the real-life Steve Eisman), Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, and Ryan Gosling as a number of Wall Street moneymen who discover the fraud underpinning the mortgage lending practices of the big banks and independently make moves to profit from the impending collapse of the system. Additionally, the film makes comical use of celebrities, playing themselves, to explain some of the technical financial jargon in layman’s terms. Margot Robbie in a bubble bath explaining subprime mortgage-backed securities is my personal favorite.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Jun 02, 2016  |  0 comments
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In June 1957, Soviet spy Rudolf Abel is captured in New York City. Insurance attorney James B. Donovan is appointed to handle the defense, based on his experience at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials. Reluctant to take the case at first, Donovan ultimately accepts, passionate in his belief that everyone deserves a fair trial.
Anthony Chiarella  |  Jun 02, 2016  |  0 comments
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Richie Lanz (Bill Murray) is a rock ’n’ roll casualty, a down-and-out band promoter who leaps at the chance to join a USO tour to Afghanistan. Before the first show, however, Richie’s client, assistant, and possible paramour Ronnie Smiler (Zooey Deschanel) flees the country, leaving him broke, stranded, and $1,000 in debt to a trigger-happy mercenary (Bruce Willis). To the rescue come two hapless arms dealers who hire Richie to deliver munitions to a remote village.
David Vaughn  |  May 27, 2016  |  0 comments
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This is the true story of the rise of N.W.A., a Compton, California rap group who changed the musical landscape in the late 1980s with their blend of dope beats and hard-hitting lyrics about life in South Central L.A. Collaboration between Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Easy-E led to the hit release of Boyz in the Hood, which caught the ear of music manager Jerry Heller, who helped the group sign with Priority Records. Their first studio album, Straight Outta Compton, featured their controversial song “F*** the Police,” describing the reality of being a black man in L.A. in the 1980s.
Avi Greengart  |  May 27, 2016  |  3 comments
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The opening titles of Everest promise that this movie is based on a true story, but then we are led through what appears to be a standard Hollywood man-versus-nature tale, complete with distinct one-note characters to root for. There’s the super-climber who built a business around adventure tourism, complete with a pregnant wife at home. A former protégé,
Fred Kaplan  |  May 20, 2016  |  0 comments
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The Graduate is one of the great American films. It captured a spirit of the 1960s at its cusp, marked the screen debut of Dustin Hoffman (clearing the way for a new, more inclusive type of movie star), altered the nature and function of a movie-music soundtrack—and it’s just damn fine filmmaking. It’s the shrewd mixing of dissonant elements that made the movie so head-spinning in its day and so appealing still—a fairly conventional formula, sly angles on modern themes (empty materialism, alienated youth, sexual license), and raucous comedy done up in a stark, surreal mise-en-scène: Antonioni channeled through Second City, but deeply funny, not just satirical, and oddly moving, too.
Chris Chiarella  |  May 20, 2016  |  0 comments
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We often live in a locked-down world of dread these days, especially when the subject of the World Trade Center arises. But in the summer of 1974, one week before his 25th birthday, Philippe Petit made headlines with a self-propelled trip between the rooftops of the Twin Towers, and it has become a modern legend almost too daring to be believed. Driven by an all-consuming passion for his wire-walking art and unable to resist the majestic pull of those magnificent skyscrapers since first learning of their construction, Philippe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) truly risked everything to fulfill his dream.
Corey Gunnestad  |  May 13, 2016  |  0 comments
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I sometimes wonder if the filmmakers behind those cheesy science-fiction/horror B films of the 1950s ever believed that they were creating high art. Certainly films like Creature with the Atom Brain, Invasion of the Saucer Men, and I Married a Monster from Outer Space must have seemed pretty ridiculous to the moviegoers of the time too, don’t you think? And yet since then, those films have been elevated to a near-mythic cult status.
Chris Chiarella  |  May 13, 2016  |  1 comments
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Andy Weir’s bestselling novel The Martian was justly lauded for its clever use of hard science facts to tell a thrilling yet believable tale of science fiction. Of course, the characters needed to be compelling as well if this bold survival epic was to work, and on screen as well as on the page, the futuristic drama is a smashing success. We begin a couple of decades from now as a manned Mars expedition is cut short due to a violent storm on the surface of the Red Planet.
SV Staff  |  May 12, 2016  |  2 comments
No format launch would be complete without movies to play, and UHD Blu-ray Disc boosters got more than they could have hoped for, with more than two-dozen titles from Sony, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and Lionsgate available concurrent with the debut of the Samsung UBD-K8500 player and all mastered with HDR10 high dynamic range. We asked our movie reviewers Tom Norton and David Vaughn for their top-line observations on 14 titles in the first batch to help you separate the demo-worthy from the duds.
Josef Krebs  |  May 06, 2016  |  0 comments
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Two dice roll into close-up. Thus, down-and-out dockside gambler Johnny Farrell is introduced, along with the theme of characters that make their own luck by cheating with chance, love, and big business. Whereas Johnny just plays his way into a job at an exotic Buenos Aires casino through his cardsharp skills, snappy spiel, and fast fisticuffs, his boss, Ballin, has greater ambitions in creating an international monopoly and is willing to use intimidation, illegal business practices, and murder to attain his goal. Johnny becomes as faithful and obedient to his mentor as Ballin’s phallic walking stick, until Ballin breaks their agreement of no women around, returning from a business trip with a wife—Gilda. Especially as she’s the woman who’d ripped Johnny’s heart out.
Pan
David Vaughn  |  May 06, 2016  |  4 comments
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Peter is an orphaned 12-year-old whose rebellious ways constantly have him in hot water with the nuns running his orphanage. Although he’s never met his mother, he knows there’s something special about himself, and he dreams of a better life. One night, he’s whisked away to Neverland where he finds adventure, danger, and the mystery of his mother’s heritage. With the help of the warrior Tiger Lily and his newfound friend James Hook, Peter must overcome the meddlesome Blackbeard in order to save Neverland and fulfill his destiny.
Anthony Chiarella  |  Apr 29, 2016  |  0 comments
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Ricki Randazzo’s dreams of rock stardom are shrinking in the rearview mirror. While her group, The Flash, is the house band at a dive bar, Ricki (Meryl Streep) struggles as a cashier at an upscale supermarket. It’s there that she receives a call from her ex-husband (Kevin Kline) asking her to come home to Indianapolis as her estranged daughter has attempted suicide. Ricki returns not only to an unstable daughter but also to one son fresh out of the closet and another about to be married… with no intention of inviting her to the wedding.
Chris Chiarella  |  Apr 29, 2016  |  0 comments
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When a government strike against the Mexican drug cartel on American soil proves fruitful but costly, a dedicated FBI field agent (Emily Blunt) joins an interagency task force to help bring the men responsible to justice. She quickly learns, however, that her new colleagues have a disturbing tendency to bend or break the rules, or even write their own. They’re an effective bunch, albeit mysteriously motivated. The dangerous transport of a high-value prisoner to the U.S. yields valuable information, including the whereabouts of a crucial cartel tunnel under the border.

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