MARY POPPINS 50th Anniversary Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 265 days ago

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Practically perfect?  Not quite.  Mary Poppins stands as one of the shining jewels in Walt Disney’s crown, and considering the recent release of Saving Mr. Banks, you’d expect the company to throw everything and the kitchen sink at its new 50th anniversary Blu-ray edition of the film. Instead, you can see the signs of cutting corners. It’s not a bad rendition of the movie, but if you own any previous copies, the added benefits are rather thin.  Hit the jump for my full review.

SUNRISE Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 269 days ago

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Most people these days know F.W. Murnau for his silent classic Nosferatu, but many have argued that his best work came after he emigrated to America and went to work for Fox. Specifically, Sunrise: a romantic melodrama concerning love lost and found, stands as perhaps the greatest cinematic expression of the Silent Era, and remains a treat not only for film buffs but for anyone interested in strong storytelling. Fox has just released a new Blu-ray edition of the film, and while it’s not the Criterion Collection, it should prove more than enticing for fans and casual viewers alike. Hit the jump for my full review.

ELYSIUM Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 271 days ago

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Popular wisdom considers Elysium a sophomore slump: not bad, but not quite up to director Neil Blomkamp‘s extraordinary feature debut, District 9.  This new film is too preachy, they say.  Too obvious.  It wears its heart too loudly on its sleeve and, for what is apparently Jodie Foster‘s swan song, the celebrated actress really phones it in.  All of these things are true.  And yet they resolutely fail to diminish the film’s impact, both as a comment on our times and as straight-up entertainment in its own right.  When it arrived in theaters last summer, we were in desperate need of a film to shake us out of the doldrums.  Now that it’s out on Blu-ray, its sterling qualities stand out all the more.  Hit the jump for my full review.

RIDDICK Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 282 days ago

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Behold, the power of cheese! If, after the perceived failure of The Chronicles of Riddick, you said that there would be another Riddick movie – and a full ten years later to boot – most people would think you were crazy. Even crazier to say that the new film would be demonstrably awesome. The Riddick movies were always a bit of an acquired taste: the first a surprise hit that helped make Vin Diesel a star, the second a big-budget epic that marked his gradual descent. Now the third movie arrives with its intended audience firmly in mind, which is part of what makes it such earthy fun. Hit the jump for my full review.

THE LONE RANGER Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 283 days ago

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The abject failure of The Lone Ranger produced its share of schadenfreude, particularly among people weary of star Johnny Depp and the kind of summer movie hubris that the western reboot seemed to embody in every frame. It was too bloated, too unwieldy, too full of itself and its own overblown event status to merit forgiveness. Audiences stayed away in droves, and not without good reason. There’s a lot here that just doesn’t work. And yet in a season dominated by grim, downbeat, unyieldingly bleak blockbusters, it brought an undeniable sense of fun that most critics completely overlooked. I’m not prepared to go all Tarantino on it, but I will say it shows signs of life that definitely merit a second look. Hit the jump for my full review of The Lone Ranger on Blu-ray.

R.I.P.D. Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 313 days ago

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The summer of 2013 won’t exactly go down in the annals of cinematic greatness  (kind of like the rest of 2013), and while there may have been bigger disappointments, you won’t find a film released in that period more indicative of what’s wrong with the system than R.I.P.D., a lazy knock-off of Men in Black without one-tenth of the wit or cleverness, it somehow managed to corral a couple of A-listers it clearly didn’t deserve to deliver onscreen boredom for theaters rightfully bereft of audiences.   Hit the jump for my full review.

HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 324 days ago

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It’s amazing to consider how prolific Clint Eastwood has been as a director.  When actors direct, they tend to focus on just a few projects.  Kevin Costner, for instance, has just three directing credits to his name.  Mel Gibson has four.  And yet it took Eastwood almost twenty films before he received the same accolades that they did for his skills. (He currently stands at 35-plus movies.)  It took him that long to be properly acknowledged.  Luckily, because he has so many, we can genuinely chart his growth and progress as a creative force in ways we can’t with those other filmmaker/stars.  High Plains Drifter, which has arrived in freshly minted Blu-ray form, was the first Western he directed, and remains one of his most challenging (and disturbing) efforts behind the camera.  Hit the jump for my full review.

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY Extended Edition Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 356 days ago

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Since its release, the one criticism leveled most consistently against The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was its length. Eager to fill the giant void in their profit margins left by the departure of Harry Potter, Warner Bros leveraged a three-film cycle out of Peter Jackson, stretching J.R.R. Tolkien’s comparatively slim novel far past its breaking point. The result was a pretty good film in a lot of ways, but one whose flabby center and general overindulgence prevented it from joining the pantheon of greats occupied by The Lord of the Rings.  As you may have gathered, adding another fifteen minute doesn’t exactly improve matters. Hit the jump for my full review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition Blu-ray.

THE WIZARD OF OZ: 75th Anniversary Limited Collector’s Edition Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 1 year, 5 days ago

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What can one say about The Wizard of Oz that hasn’t already been said? It overcame a troubled production, a flawed plot, and enough casting changes to fill a dozen movies to create a piece of indescribably beautiful cinematic magic. As adults, we can snark at its idiosyncrasies, marvel at the awkward questions we missed (“The Wizard sent them off to die; they’re not pissed about that?!”), and notice the things we never did as a child (“If it was all a dream, won’t Miss Gulch be coming back for the dog?!”). But the moment “Somewhere over the Rainbow” starts up, all that cynicism melts away. We’re five years old again, ready to follow that Yellow Brick Road wherever it might lead, and reminded that no amount of criticism can possibly damage this movie. It’s justly celebrated as the most beloved film of all time, a title I daresay it will never relinquish. It exists to be loved and cherished; there’s simply nothing else to say about it. The new 75th anniversary Blu-ray collection does full justice to it, though one wonders how necessary it is after the earlier 70th anniversary edition already set such a high standard. Hit the jump for the full review.

THE LITTLE MERMAID Diamond Edition Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 1 year, 6 days ago

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With the exception of Snow White, no film changed the fortunes of the Walt Disney Company as dramatically as The Little Mermaid. It arrived at the end of over two decades in the wilderness following the death of Walt Disney: a period marked by financial doldrums, mediocre movies and the very real possibility that they would get out of the cinematic game altogether and become a theme park company. The arrival of CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg helped change all that, greenlighting an update of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale that reestablished the company’s status as king of the animation cage. The film’s arrival on Blu-ray gives us another chance to evaluate its strengths, its weaknesses, and the legacy that continues to reverberate almost 25 years later. Hit the jump for the full review.

Monty Python’s THE MEANING OF LIFE 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 1 year, 8 days ago

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The Meaning of Life makes the ideal swan song for legendary comedy troupe Monty Python. And that’s not the same thing as saying it’s perfect. It essentially replicates the sketch-style comedy of their television show, covering the Seven Ages of Man in an uproarious send up of God, religion and the profound questions that never seem to have a definitive answer. This marks a break from their shaggy-dog-plot approach to The Holy Grail and The Life of Brian, which presumed to tell a coherent story no matter how many ridiculous detours they took in the meantime. The Meaning of Life got them back to their roots in grand fashion… and that includes some glaring weaknesses along with their undiminished strengths. Hit the jump for the full review.

BATES MOTEL: Season One Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 1 year, 33 days ago

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It’s hard to believe that Psycho actually qualifies as a franchise, mostly because everything after the immortal original was a steaming pile of cow flop.  Three theatrical sequels, one aborted TV pilot, the well-intentioned but ultimately pointless Gus Van Sant thing… it hasn’t been an easy ride for Norman Bates and his mother. Until now.

Bates Motel starts out feeling like a terrible gimmick, covering Norman’s (Freddie Highmore) formative years in what initially promises to be a one-trick pony.  Instead, the show serves up a meaty cocktail of American Gothic, as Mrs. Bates (Vera Farmiga) buys a quiet hotel with her young son in hopes of escaping a very checkered past.  Naturally, things go from bad to worse as the hotel’s old owner shows up, the local sheriff (Nestor Carbonell) pops in to ask awkward questions, and bodies both real and metaphorical start getting dumped in out-of-the-way places.   Hit the jump for my full review of Bates Motel season one on Blu-ray.

ARROW: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 1 year, 36 days ago

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As we watch DC Comics desperately playing catch-up with arch-rival Marvel in the feature film department, it’s interesting to remember that they pretty much own the field as far as prime-time TV shows go. Their record stretches back to the George Reeves Superman show, and includes Adam West, Lynda Carter, the Smallville gang and Lois and Clark among others. Marvel, on the other hand, basically just has the 70s Incredible Hulk and a few pilots, TV movies and one-season-and-out losers. (We’ve yet to see whether Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will change that, but no matter.)  To their list of winners, you can add Arrow, which proved another hit for the CW and now comes to us on Blu-ray. Hit the jump for my full review of the show’s first season on Blu-ray.

BOARDWALK EMPIRE Season 3 Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 1 year, 52 days ago

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Having established a solid precedent for its first two seasons, Boardwalk Empire ran a serious risk of letting us down in the third. Having established its sweeping scope of Prohibition-era crime, it seemed to grow more timid, focusing on domestic soap opera elements rather than the marvelous gangster saga it had promised. The character arcs seemed to be stalling, things were moving forward at a slower pace than we might expect. What could be done?

Frankly, an Emmy-nominated supporting figure was a big step in the right direction. Hit the jump for my full review.

EVIL DEAD Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 1 year, 54 days ago

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The best compliment that you can pay the new Evil Dead is that we don’t want to destroy it for the audacity of using the name.  It captures the same spirit as Sam Raimi‘s legendary original: that queasy mix of horror and humor that turned it and its sequels into genre masterpieces.  This new version also doesn’t make the mistake of trying to “update” the scenario for a new millennium.  With the exception of a few fashion choices and the odd bit of tech, this story could be set in the exact same era that the first one was.  It even finds a sly way to slip series stalwart Bruce Campbell in there without overshadowing the proceedings.  That’s no mean feat in these days of half-assed remakes, and the filmmakers deserve a big round of applause for it.  Hit the jump for my full review.

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