KEY AND PEELE: Seasons One & Two Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 9 hours ago

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Comedy is the most subjective of mediums, and one man’s hilarious genius is another man’s desperate hack. Widely successful comics often water down their material in order to appeal to the broadest possible demographic, while niche comics tailor their message to much that they can’t break out of their established audience. Key and Peele seem to have avoided that fate by finding the right mixture of intelligence, critical thinking and personal passion with their Comedy Central series. The jokes feel like they come from your clever best friend: accessible without being so bland that they fall flat. Their new Blu-ray set – covering the first two seasons – puts some of their best routines on display, which are more than enough to excuse the occasional failure. Hit the jump for my full Key & Peele Blu-ray review of seasons one and two.

TRANSCENDENCE Review

by     Posted Yesterday

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Much like its digitized main character, Transcendence has a cold, distant personality that might understand how humans act but can’t comprehend how they feel.  It’s not too difficult to explore the dangers of a man being consumed by technology.  That story goes all the way back to the tale of Icarus.  It may feel relevant due to our investment in the Internet and the distance we create every day by putting our lives online rather than forging real personal connections, but Wally Pfister‘s directorial debut sticks to a path where other films have gone before.  The movie still asks worthwhile questions, but they’re never elevated beyond dorm-room level philosophy.  Additionally, these questions overshadow the characters, who are reduced to pieces of a conversation we’ve already had before.

FARGO Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 6 days ago

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With the premiere of the intriguing new Fargo limited series, it was inevitable that we’d receive a new Blu-ray version of the modern classic that inspired it. Joel & Ethan Coen‘s Fargo remains one of the high points of their storied career, and while its arrival on Blu-ray has clearly mercenary motivations, it’s no less welcome because of it. Hit the jump for my Fargo Blu-ray review.

THE RAILWAY MAN Review

by     Posted One week ago

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[This is a re-post of my The Railway Man review from the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. The Railway Man opens today in limited release.]

War is an undeniable certainty.  For as long as there is civilization, there will be war.  With conflict comes tragedy, but it does not end when the war concludes; the effects a human being are long lasting and not easily forgotten.  We’ve see countless aspects of war explored onscreen in various films, some focusing on the battles at hand, some zeroing in on the psychological experience, and some chronicling the lasting effects years after the actual conflict.  The Railway Man tries to have it both ways by telling two stories: one of atrocities during World War II and one of the after effects on man’s psyche nearly half a decade later.  By splitting its focus in two, though, the film fails to wholly capture either story, resulting in a disappointing feature all together.  Hit the jump for my full review.

JOE Review

by     Posted One week ago

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[This is a re-post of my Joe review from the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.  Joe opens today in limited release.]

After watching Prince Avalanche earlier this year, I hoped that director David Gordon Green would continue with smaller, more intimate stories. With his follow-up, Joe, he has not only built on the palette-cleanser of Prince Avalanche, but also delivered one of his best movies. Featuring tremendous performances from stars Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan as well as a cast of non-professional actors, Joe is both compassionate towards its characters and non-judgmental towards their actions. It’s a story about men teetering between honest living and losing all restraint with their violent tendencies. Casually and with great subtlety, Green examines not only the inner struggle to maintain control, but also how much responsibility we owe to others and the limits of that responsibility.

ENEMIES CLOSER Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 9 days ago

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If you’ve always wanted to see Jean-Claude Van Damme as a French-Canadian Mountie/vegan drug-dealer, then Enemies Closer is the incredibly specific movie for you!  It’s a must-see film, not because it’s that great, but because it’s about as crazy a role as JCVD has ever played.  His one-liners are amazing, his antics are worth the price of purchase, and that hair just never quits.  Tom Everett Scott and Orlando Jones also star in the Peter Hyams-directed action thriller that’s available now on DVD and Blu-ray.  Hit the jump for my review.

KILL YOUR DARLINGS Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 12 days ago

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Telling the true story of someone’s life in a film is a difficult task.  The trappings of the biopic genre become glaringly apparent when filmmakers try to chronicle an entire life in a two-hour film.  There are innumerable events over the course of a person’s lifespan that alter him or her, for better or worse, and humans are always undergoing change.  Trying to discern which events are most important is a futile effort, and more often than not, the cradle-to-grave biopic results in a droll feature.  However, when the filmmaker focuses on a constrained period of time in a person’s life and frames an entire film around that, the results can be fascinating.  Such is the case with writer/director John Krokidas’ drama Kill Your Darlings, which chronicles the early college years of poet Allen Ginsberg and the beginnings of the Beat movement, using that as a springboard to explore themes of rebellion, obsession, and self-discovery.

The result is an ambitious, bombastic debut feature for Krokidas, buoyed by a pair of fearless performances from Daniel Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan.  My full Kill Your Darlings Blu-ray review follows after the jump.

UNDER THE SKIN Review

by     Posted 14 days ago

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[This is a re-post of my review from the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. Under the Skin opens today in limited release.]

Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin is strange, visually absorbing, cerebral, and rarely compelling. The film attempts to obscure its fairly simple story and subtext in order to imply depth, and while it may take a while to figure out the movie’s motives, that’s due to the lethargic pacing rather than the complexities of the themes. Thankfully, there’s no pretentiousness as Glazer clearly knows what he’s going for, and has made some admittedly clever moves to get there. Unfortunately, there’s nothing particularly fascinating beneath the surface.

DOM HEMINGWAY Review

by     Posted 16 days ago

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[This is a re-post of my review from the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.  Dom Hemingway opens today in limited release.]

If the Oscars had a category for Most Creative Use of Vulgar Language (and they should), writer-director Richard Sheperd would be worthy of a Lifetime Achievement Award for Dom Hemingway. Rarely has the use of dirty words become a virtuoso masterpiece of language, but Dom Hemingway turns swearing into high art. Sheperd provides the words, but star Jude Law brings them to vile, explosive, hilarious life in what may be the best performance of his career thus far. There’s also a story and character development that’s all well and good, but Dom Hemingway is mostly about grabbing us by the throat and pummeling us with filthy, hilarious speeches and one-liners.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER Review

by     Posted 16 days ago

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One of the main criticisms leveled against Captain America: The First Avenger was that Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) was simply a “good guy” and therefore didn’t have any deep inner conflict (i.e. baggage).  That was one of the things I loved most about the character.  He didn’t need some tragic past to let him know that it was good to be good.  “I don’t like bullies,” Rogers said in the first film, and that was it in a nutshell: “I don’t like bullies.”  The sequel, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, could have made the character more twisted and melodramatic by plunging him into a darker, more complex world.  Instead, Captain America isn’t corrupted by the present day.  He’s not even tested.  His innate goodness is a beacon; it’s a bulwark against corruption.   Captain America: The Winter Soldier celebrates the good guy, and when combined with smart commentary, incredible action, and a wonderful sense of humor, it’s the best Marvel movie so far.

HOMEFRONT Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 16 days ago

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In recent years, there have been quite a few attempts at bringing the magic of 80s and 90s action movies back to the big screen, most notably by the big names who owe their success to the era.  So it’s surprising to find that Gary Fleder’s crime thriller Homefront might be the best effort out of the lot.  Perhaps it’s due in part to the strength of Chuck Logan’s novel, which was adapted by Sylvester Stallone and moved from the frozen falls of Minnesota to the bayou of Louisiana.  And while frontman Jason Statham turns in one of the best performances of his career, the entire film is buoyed by an excellent supporting cast that turns in surprisingly reserved performances, including James Franco, Winona Ryder, Kate Bosworth, and newcomer Izabela Vidovic.  Sadly, the Blu-ray is rather bare when it comes to extras, but the feature itself is worth another look.  Hit the jump for my review.

FROZEN Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 17 days ago

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It’s no shock that Frozen — the great animated film by Disney — became a hit, but it’s a little surprising it became a phenomenon.  Currently the film is still in theaters, even though it’s now on DVD and Blu-ray, and it’s about to cross the $400 Million dollar mark domestically, while it’s now the twelfth highest grossing film of all time worldwide (unadjusted, of course), and could cross into the top ten when all is said and done.  What made this so special? Kristen Bell, Josh Gad and Idina Menzel lead the voice actors, and my review of Frozen on Blu-ray follows after the jump. 

AFF 2014: THE CONGRESS Review

by     Posted 18 days ago

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Ari Folman‘s The Congress is a trip in more ways than one.  It’s visuals are lush and its ideas are rich.  Like Folman’s previous film, Waltz with Bashir, the writer-director isn’t using animation only as visual expression, but also bolsters the themes by using the form in the first place.  The filmmaker carefully builds his movie like a house of cards by trying to use the acting profession as a spring board and then expanding it to an exploration of self-definition, dreams, hallucinations, and detachment from reality.  The film can be so head-spinning that it’s possible to get dizzy and lose focus, but when The Congress is on point, it’s as fascinating as it gorgeous.

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 18 days ago

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Quentin Tarantino recently pointed out that with most directors there’s a notable falling off of quality as they get older.  That their last three films are often their worst.  And it’s true that with most directors that’s the case.  Martin Scorsese is currently 71 years old, and is a notable exception.  The Wolf of Wall Street is one of his best films.  It joins such established masterpieces as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas in the upper echelon of his work, and it’s the best performance that Leonardo DiCaprio has ever given.  My review of The Wolf of Wall Street on Blu-ray follows after the jump.

AMERICAN HUSTLE Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 20 days ago

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It may speak to the year or the film itself, but David O. Russell’s American Hustle exploded on the scene, arriving to quickly become an Oscar front runner, and netting ten nominations in the process (while also grossing nearly $150 Million at the box office).  But by the time of the awards ceremony, Hustle went home empty handed, even though stars Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence we all nominated.  The film turned out to be all sizzle and no steak.  Which is actually the story of the movie as two hustlers are put on the spot by the FBI to help catch bigger swindlers.  My review of American Hustle on Blu-ray follows after the jump. 

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