ALEXANDER: THE ULTIMATE CUT Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 68 days ago

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When Oscar-winning writer/director Oliver Stone first unleashed his epic Alexander the Great biopic back in 2004, critics launched a war of words and audiences retreated from the box office battle lines.  In the aftermath of its disastrous theatrical release, Alexander was re-tooled for its 2005 home entertainment debut by Stone, who trimmed 8 minutes for a special “Director’s Cut” DVD, whose packaging promised a “faster-paced, more action packed” film.  Although the “Director’s Cut” sold moderately well, certain critics pummeled Stone once again, this time for further de-gaying an already largely de-gayed narrative about history’s most famous bisexual conqueror.

Determined to placate critics once and for all, Stone re-edited the film a third time in 2007 and, rather than subtracting footage, added in a total of 40 extra minutes, which included more literal sword fighting and implied naked sword fighting.  The resulting release, Alexander Revisited, was supposed to be the final word on the film.  Seven years later, however, and we have a fourth cut of the film, Alexander: The Ultimate Cut, which shortens Revisited by seven minutes.  The question is, has Stone finally made Alexander great?  Hit the jump for my Alexander: The Ultimate Cut Blu-ray review.

LONE SURVIVOR Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 110 days ago

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‘Tis the season for red, white and blue patriotism, which finds perfect cinematic expression in the pro-American military thriller Lone Survivor, which recently debuted on Blu-ray.  Based on The New York Times bestselling book “Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of Seal Team 10,” Lone Survivor doesn’t stop to ask any big questions about what we’re doing in the Middle East, let alone offer any Kubrick-ian treatise on the nature of war.  Instead, it simply dramatizes with harrowing effectiveness the true story of four heroic Navy SEALs who fought against the Taliban to the bitter end out of unmitigated love of country and their fellow American soldiers.

Hit the jump for my complete Lone Survivor Blu-ray review.

GIRL MOST LIKELY Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 323 days ago

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After the blockbuster success of Bridesmaids, actress Kristen Wiig announced she’d be skipping the requisite sequel to try her hand at a more darkly comic role in a black comedy then-titled Imogene. Its basic storyline – a failed playwright (Wiig) moves in with her gambling addict mother (Annette Bening) after faking her own suicide – sounded teasingly reminiscent of beloved ‘90s seriocomedy Postcards from the Edge. But any hopes I had that Wiig and Bening might recapture that classic Streep/MacLaine chemistry quickly went out the window as the finished film – blandly re-titled Girl Most Likely ­- unspooled. Less a mother/daughter story than a young woman/weird world yarn, Girl Most Likely is a meandering film that fails as black comedy (it’s not black enough) or plain comedy (it’s not funny enough). Instead, it plays as 104 minutes of quirk, with Wiig stuck in the mediocre middle playing against her strengths.  Hit the jump for my Blu-ray review.

THE BLING RING Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 360 days ago

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With such films as Marie Antoinette and Somewhere, writer/director Sofia Coppola has carved a niche for herself as cinema’s premiere chronicler of privileged ennui.  However, in her latest cinematic offering, The Bling Ring, Coppola steps outside of the insular world of the wealthy and bored to focus her lens on characters desperate to get inside it.  My review after the jump.

THE IMPOSSIBLE Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 1 year, 141 days ago

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The Impossible is a tricky film to write about because there’s just something inherently tricky about the film itself. Maybe that’s because it’s based on a true story that often feels a little too impossible to believe. Or maybe it’s because that story has been so blatantly Hollywood-ized – with Spanish 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami survivors María Belón Alvárez and Tomás Belón recast as the impossibly blonde-haired and blue-eyed Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor. Or maybe it’s because the finished film falls into a Hollywood genre that typically encourages us to revel in the onscreen wreckage, only here it’s impossible to do so without feeling weird – I mean, over 200,000 people died as a result of that really cool-looking wave! Anyway, these were the issues I had when I first saw The Impossible and which resurfaced while watching it on Blu-ray.  Hit the jump for my review.

A STAR IS BORN Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 1 year, 216 days ago

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In the aftermath of last year’s holiday dud The Guilt Trip, it’s difficult imagining a time when Barbra Streisand’s name was synonymous with major box office. But during the late ‘60s and ‘70s, Streisand starred in a string of massive movie hits, including Funny Girl, What’s Up, Doc? and A Star Is Born, all three of which would be considered the equivalents of a modern-day, $300 million-plus grosser after adjusting their ticket sales for inflation. (Quick, name the last time a female-starring romantic comedy or drama earned anything close to that amount, Mses. Bullock, McAdams and Witherspoon). Of course, we all know money doesn’t equal quality and, taken out of the context of its ‘70s-era success, A Star Is Born certainly stands as proof that yesterday’s milky-smooth hit can be today’s cheese-crumbled miss.  Hit the jump for our review of A Star Is Born on Blu-ray.

GAME CHANGE Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 1 year, 281 days ago

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I should probably admit my political bias up front: I enthusiastically voted for Barack Obama back in ‘08. That said, I’m not ashamed to confess I was equally riveted that same year by Republican candidate John McCain’s competing campaign, particularly any and all parts having to do with his running mate, Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Like most college-educated individuals – hell, any-educated individuals – I couldn’t take my confused eyes or bleeding ears off this bizarrely overconfident and suspiciously under-qualified woman who might end up our next president, should her white-haired running mate get elected and, well, croak. Matt Damon famously compared the whole scenario to “a really bad Disney movie.” To me, it was a potential horror flick. Thankfully, Obama won the election and, four years later, HBO Films has turned the near debacle into a thrilling political drama, which you can now see “from your house” on Blu-ray and DVD.  My review after the jump the Game Change Blu-ray after the jump.

ED WOOD Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 1 year, 360 days ago

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After sending Pee-Wee on a big adventure, raising Beetlejuice from the dead, and flying Batman into Gotham City (twice), Tim Burton was heralded as one of America’s most original and commercially viable directors. So, what did he decide to do as a follow-up to his successful late ‘80s/early ‘90s run? Why, he made a quirky little film about Ed Wood, a man often referred to as “the worst movie director of all time.”

It’s easy to imagine why Burton was drawn to the life and career of this notoriously wacky filmmaker, who also had a penchant for wearing woman’s apparel. Clothing fetish aside, both directors take (or “took,” in Wood’s case) an inventive, handcrafted approach to filmmaking and always exhibit a deep affection for their misfit, on-screen characters. The biggest difference between the two, however, is that, Wood only succeeded in making a few so-bad-they’re-good cult films, while Burton can’t seem to make a truly bad one.  My review of the Blu-ray after the jump.

DETACHMENT DVD Review

by     Posted 2 years, 9 days ago

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Over the past ten years, a plethora of movies have been made about American schoolteachers. Some of our on-screen educators have been good (Hilary Swank inspiring at-risk students in Freedom Writers), some bad (Cameron Diaz sleeping off hangovers during class in Bad Teacher) and some downright ugly (Ryan Gosling smoking crack between his in Half Nelson).  But what we haven’t had much of in the past decade is a large cinematic output from Tony Kaye, the acclaimed filmmaker behind 1998’s American History X. This year, however, Kaye made a bold return to narrative filmmaking with Detachment, the story of a high school teacher who’s mostly good, sometimes bad and only occasionally ugly. Like American History X, Detachment features a strong central performance, and tells a powerful, if somewhat bleak tale of one generation striving to lead another toward grace and dignity.  My review of the DVD after the jump.

FULL METAL JACKET 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 2 years, 34 days ago

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During the late 1980s, a generation of American boys went to war in Vietnam. Doing so, however, didn’t require any basic training or an actual tour of duty. Nope, all that was required was a working VCR and a VHS copy of any one of the squad of Vietnam War-era movies available at the local mom and pop video store. Seriously, I can’t remember a single birthday party from that time that didn’t involve a screening of Good Morning, Vietnam or Hamburger Hill or Platoon. But the Vietnam War movie that has always lingered strongest in my memory – the one that looked different and felt different from the others – was Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket.  Hit the jump for my review of the 25th anniversary Blu-ray.

SEASON OF THE WITCH Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 3 years, 83 days ago

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You’ve got to hand it to Nicolas Cage: while age peers Brad Pitt and Sean Penn refuse to work on anything but highbrow, Malick-ian fare and Tom Cruise rejects any role that doesn’t reflect his Level VII OT superhuman awesomeness, Cage willingly rolls around in the muck of any and all genres, with even the most dubious of filmmaking talent. In the past year alone, he’s starred in the action/horror hybrid Drive Angry, the family friendly The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, the meta-comic book movie Kick-Ass and the gritty drama The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Seriously, you’ve got to love this guy for working so much. He’s like a hungry immigrant but with the net worth of his fatherland. (well, before back taxes).  Continued after the jump.

ALL GOOD THINGS Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 3 years, 197 days ago

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All Good Things falls into the tricky subgenre of unsolved crime drama. Whether handled expertly, as in the case of David Fincher’s Zodiac, or sloppily, as in Brian De Palma’s The Black Dahlia, there’s something inherently dissatisfying about these films. Perhaps it’s because, on a primal level, we prefer our monsters caught and killed. Ancient myths were certainly never built on ambiguity and irresolution. Then again, ancient listeners never had the chance to watch a Blu-ray like Magnolia’s All Good Things, which not only includes the speculative story of a possibly monstrous human being, but also a fascinatingly bizarre audio commentary from the possible monster himself, Robert Durst. My review after the jump.

YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 3 years, 251 days ago

I take great comfort in the fact that moviegoers are flocking to see Black Swan, The Fighter and The King’s Speech right now. Hollywood loves to proclaim the adult drama dead, but all three R-Rated films are quickly on their way toward a $100 Million gross. Perhaps this is owing to awards season hype and filmgoers’ desire to feel part of the Oscar race, but whatever the reason, it’s encouraging to see films made for people other than teenage fanboys succeed. Now, if only viewers would partake in well made adult films that fall outside the awards season calendar. Then, they might not have missed September’s endearing and entertaining You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.  My review after the break:

HOWL Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 3 years, 271 days ago

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James Franco, 2010’s most oddly ubiquitous entertainer, played two real life figures onscreen last year: poet Allen Ginsberg and survivalist Aron Ralston. While Ginsberg is presumably still the better known name, far more moviegoers checked out 127 Hours than Howl, the little seen biography about the Beat founding father from acclaimed documentary filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman. Although Howl marks the duo’s narrative film debut, they break from traditional biopic form by utilizing a unique mix of documentary-style interviews, Hollywood-style courtroom dramatics and animated sequences to depict the inspiration behind, creation of and aftermath of Ginsberg’s most famous poem, “Howl.” While pretty boy Franco is a somewhat odd choice to play the less-than-beautiful, but never less-than-charismatic Ginsberg, the actor adeptly portrays the poet’s repressed romantic yearnings, heartbreak over friend’s and family’s treatment by mid-century mental health professionals and, most importantly, his electrifying ability to manipulate the English language. The film itself, however, is a mixed bag: poetic where it should be prosaic; diffuse where it should be focused.  My review after the jump:

DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 3 years, 285 days ago

Regardless of its quality (or lack thereof), people are likely to check out Dinner For Schmucks based on its menu of comic talent. Pop-com director Jay Roach (Meet the Parents, Austin Powers series) offers up funnymen and frequent co-stars Steve Carell and Paul Rudd (The 40 Year-old Virgin, Anchorman) as the film’s main comic courses, along with The Hangover’s Zach Galifianakis and Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement as potentially humorous side-dishes. Like a food critic – or, more fittingly, like one of those minions who tests the king’s entrée to make sure it isn’t poisoned – let me warn you: despite its ingredients, this Dinner is cold, tasteless and oddly unfunny.  More after the jump:

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