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The June Blu-Ray Review Seat: Summer In The City Edition
So I'm back with another installment of my review series with plenty of new titles to go through and many that you'll probably reconsider not watching. So here we go
Chappie (**) Sony/R/2015/2 Hours/2:40.1 Aspect Ratio/Special Features are included This is a good looking misfire that features an ecclectic cast including Hugh Jackman and Dev Patel from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Patel plays the creator of a robotic military police force in Johannesburg, South Africa when one night he figures out a way to put the conciousness of any subject into the mind of a computer. He steals a robot that is about to be junked to test his discovery when he is kidnapped by three strung out criminals. Soon Chappie is born and soon learns from his new "family" with the sinister Jackman in tow figuring out that he could also use what's inside Chappie's mind to finally fulfill his dream of the ultimately seeing his violent and monsterous creation come to life. The film directed by Neill Blonkamp is very stylish and it simply doesn't work because the film really borrows from better movies like Short Circuit and especially alot from RoboCop. Even Jackman's robot monstrosity looks like the ED-209! This violent mess leaves it open for a sequel that does offer interesting possibilities.
Run All Night (***) Warner Bros./R/2015/1 Hour 54 Minutes/2:40.1 Aspect Ratio/Special Features are included Entertaining, but often heavy handed and fun action thriller shot in the streets of Queens and Manhattan. Liam Neeson (taking a break from Taken) plays a former mob enforcer who's long time friend is Ed Harris, a former mob boss and now legitimate businessman with a hot headed son who runs afowl of the Albanian mob when he kills the boss and Neeson's son, played by Joel Kinnaman is a witness to it. When Neeson has no choice but to kill Harris' son and protect his own, a hit has been put on both their heads and they're both set up for the murder of the Albanian's killed and have to elude both mob assassins and the police all night long. The film is a relentless and engaging exercise in loyalty, family, betrayal and revenge stylishly directed by Jaume Collet-Sierra with whom Neeson worked on the thrillers, Unknown and Non-Stop. Law & Order's Vincent D'Onofrio gives a good performance as a NYPD detective (channeling his role on the show) as the cop after them but sees the truth.
Unfinished Business (**) Fox/R/2015/1 Hour 31 Minutes/2:40.1 Aspect Ratio/Special Features Are Included Uneven comedy-drama about a hard working salesman (Vince Vaughn) who decides to go out on his own to snag a major contract for scrap metal with the help of two zany former employees (Tom Wilkinson and Dave Franco) in Germany while trying to stay ahead of the competition in Vaughn's former boss (Sienna Miller). This is Vince Vaughn and Director Ken Scott's second team up following the charming but box office failure, Delivery Man which really is more for a drama and a comedic character study that is too short to really see the aspects of Vaughn's everyday life with his family and desperation to start his own firm and not as funny as it really should've been.
The Forger (***) Lionsgate/R/2015/1 Hour 36 Minutes/2:40.1 Aspect Ratio/Special Features are included Uneven, but entertaining heist thriller that features John Travolta's best performance in quite some time playing an ex-con who is released from jail early on the condition that he helps a local gangster (Anson Mount) steal a priceless Monet from the art museum in Boston and posting a fake one in its' place while Travolta juggles his time with his dying son (Ty Sheridan) and his cantankerous father (Christopher Plummer, in the films' brilliant performance) while trying to plan the heist, paint a fake painting and eluding both Boston police and the FBI after the gangster and a major drug lord who wants the painting. The film is stylish and compelling at times, but the heist sequences don't quite work as well as they really could've and the film runs a little too short and looks like it was really stripped away of its' backstory. Still worth seeing for the excellent performances of Travolta and Plummer.
The Loft (**) Universal/R/2015/1 Hour 43 Minutes/2:40.1 Aspect Ratio/No Special Features This is a slick Americanized version of the European film which stars Karl Urban, James Marsden, Eric Stonestreet and Wentworth Miller as part of a group of guys who share a lavish high rise apartment where they hold secret trysts and have affairs with other women. One morning, they discover the dead body of a beautiful young woman, they start to try and figure out who did it and why. The movie is pretty much straightforward and somewhat predictable, but most of these guys are very unlikeable that you hope they all did it. It's not a bad film especially the finale which is a bit of a surprise and the film ends rather abruptly and way too neat after the sleeze that's filled throughout.
Kingsman: The Secret Service (*** 1/2) Fox/2015/R/2 Hours 9 Minutes/2:40.1 Aspect Ratio/Special Features Are Included Engaging and entertaining hyper violent comic book adaptation by writer/director Matthew Vaughn following his well received Kick Ass and X-Men First Class. The film revolves around a secret British agency known as the Kingsman as they recruit a tough young lad (Taron Edgerton) to join their ranks under the mentorship of fellow gentleman Colin Firth. When super villain Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) has sinister plans to eliminate everyone in the world by making everyone kill each other off with a sim card that enhances rage and violence so that only the most important people of the world are the only ones who survive. The young lad with the help of the agency's brilliant genius (Mark Strong) make a last ditch effort thwart his plans. This film was a surprise hit when it was released earlier this year and with good reason, it is really good. The film is loads of fun and worth recommending for its' style and acting which is top notch here.
Beyond The Reach (***) Lionsgate/R/2015/1 Hour 36 Minutes/2:40.1 Aspect Ratio/Special Features are included Fast paced lean and mean thriller that takes place in the Mojave Desert where a rich businessman (Michael Douglas) and hunter is on the hunt for big game. Guided by a young tour guide (Jeremy Irvine) who witnesses the murder of his best friend at the hands of Douglas. The rest of the film is a cat and mouse game of survival where Irvine tries to elude and escape Douglas from killing him altogether. The film is well shot and acted. It is a very good thriller for what it is except for the third act which feels contrived. Well, recommended for the tough desert scenes.
Welcome To Me (**) Alchemy/PG-13/2015/1 Hour 32 Minutes/1:85.1 Aspect Ratio/No Special Features. Well intentioned, but devoid of energy this comedy-drama stars Bridesmaids' Kristin Wiig as a woman who wins the local state lottery suffering from mental problems. With part of her winnings, she decides to self finance her own talk show on the local TV network to the glee of producer James Marsden. With each show, Wiig shows off more and more of her personal issues on air which finally start to affect her, her best friend (Linda Cardellini) and everyone else. The film doesn't quite work and really wastes a good supporting cast featuring Joan Cusack, Tim Robbins, Wes Bentley and Cardellini. I wanted to like this film, but it just falls short and a shame because Wiig is really developing as a dramatic actress.
Survivor (**1/2) Alchemy/PG-13/2015/1 Hour 36 Minutes/2:40.1 Aspect Ratio/No Special Features Slick, at times entertaining action-thriller starring Mila Jovovich as a US Embassy Security Expert in London who uncovers a plot by terrorists to recreate a 9/11 style attack on New Years' Eve after she finds out that she is the target of a ruthless assassin for hire named the Watchman (Pierce Brosnan) while also being framed for the murder of her boss (Robert Forster). She's pursued by Brosnan and local British authorities along with her own people including The Practice's Dylan McDermott and Oscar nominee Angela Bassett as she desperately tries to stop Brosnan from accomplishing his mission. The film is well directed by James McTieague, who directed the excellent V For Vendetta, but Jovovich isn't quite believable as a victim and it really is mostly Brosnan at his most ruthless who steals the show here. A good action-thriller for a slow weekend.
Serena (**) Magnolia/R/2014/1 Hour 50 MInutes/2:40.1 Aspect Ratio/Special Features are Included Slow, boring reunion of Oscar Winner Jennifer Lawrence and Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper as a married couple in Oregon who own a logging company together and live a rich and lavish lifestyle with Lawrence enjoying working with lumber until she uncovers the real truth about Cooper's past which could ultimately lead to her own demise. The film is slow moving and it really has no sense of urgency or dramatic flair despite how good Lawrence and Cooper are. This is one film in their collaborations that doesn't work and the script is what really lets them down.
Focus (***) Warner Bros./R/1 Hour 45 Minutes/1:85.1 Aspect Ratio/Special Features are Included Surprisingly slick and entertaining comedy from the writers/directors of Bad Santa where Will Smith plays a charming con man who leads a group of thieves in a network to pull cons all over the country. He meets Margot Robbie (looking her sexiest here) a wanna be thief from New York who ultimately wins over Smith and his heart as he tries to pull of a major con involving a ruthless millionare (Rodrigo Santoro). The film works on how likeable Smith is here and for the first time in a long time. Robbie definitely steals the show and it's good to see her featured playing off a big star like him like she did with Leonardo DiCaprio in Wolf Of Wall Street. The film's ending really needed work and the cons aren't that special either. For what it is, it is very likeable.
Project Almanac (**1/2) Paramount/PG-13/2015/1 Hour 46 Minutes/2:40.1 Aspect Ratio/Special Features A sort of found footage time travel film involving a group of teenagers who discover plans for a time machine that was part of a top secret military experiment in the basement of the house of David and Christina Ruskin (Johny Weston and Virginia Gardener). After seeing something odd in their fathers' old video camera, the siblings along with their best friends decide to go through with actually building the time machine and start to make changes that eventually lead to some very serious consequences for all involved. The film features a very strong two thirds that unfortunately fails when it reaches the third act of the film that just doesn't work. I recommend it for being original however and the cast is a group to keep an eye out on.
Odds and Ends
Spring (***) Starz!-Anchor Bay/NR/2015/1 Hour 50 Minutes Surprisingly effective and engaging thriller with a major twist that I will not reveal. The story revolves around a young California dude named Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci of Evil Dead) who's mom has passed away and lost his job at a local resturaunt due to a major fight has decided to disappear and travels to Italy. He then mixes with a pair of British travellers when he encounters a beautiful woman named Louise (Nadia Hilker in a sensational debut) who immediately takes an instant liking to him.
Pillow Book (***) Film Movement/NR/1996/2 Hours 6 Minutes Interesting and at times, haunting film that takes place in modern Japan and Hong Kong where a model (Vivian Wu) enjoys the pleasures of her father's memories as she has various different men writing caligraphy all over her body and soon she stars to develop the same skills and starts to use men has her own personal canvas including a young Ewan McGregor from Star Wars and Trainspotting.
Time Lapse (***) XLrator/NR/1 Hour 44 Minutes The second film involving a time travel/future machine that revolves around three friends (Danielle Panabaker, Matt O'Leary and George Finn) who discover a machine takes pictures of events that haven't happend for another 24 hours. Soon the group start to use the machine for personal gains and correcting mistakes until the machine starts to print out pictures that show the consequences of their actions. Slick and just as good as Project Almanac if not better.
Camp X-Ray (***) MPI Media Group/R/1 Hour 57 Minutes Solid drama featuring one of Kristen Stewart's best performances as a small town girl who joins the army to escape her town heartaches thinking that she would see action overseas. Instead, she's transferred to Guantanamo Bay to oversee Iraqi prisoners held there and forms a relationship with one of them, who has been held there for over eight years. The film is well directed and has to be Stewart's coming out party as an actress finally showing her range more than that stoaic look she showed in the Twilight films.
The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (**) Paramount/PG/2014/1 Hour 33 Minutes Long awaited sequel (ten years plus) to the hit Nickelodeon cartoon series as Spongebob and company search for a super secret reciepe that leads the animated group into the real world. Standing in their way is a findish pirate (Antonio Banderas) who wants to keep it for himself and rewrite history. Too long a wait like a few other sequels that really hurt the box office a little bit, but the film is mainly for kids and fans of the hit show.
Back To Jurassic 3D (**) Alchemy/PG/2015/1 Hour 26 Minutes Charming little film for children of all ages featuring the voices of Melanie Griffith, Stephen Baldwin, Rob Schneider and Jane Lynch of Glee in this animated tale of three young kids who curiously use a time machine to go back way, back 65 million years to the dinosaur era where they're greeted by a T-Rex and then have to avoid dangerous other animals and dinosaurs while waiting for the T-Rex's eggs to hatch so they can go back home. Also available in standard definition.
Ballet 422 (***) Magnolia Pictures/PG/2014/1 Hour 15 Minutes. Interesting and at times, engaging look into the aspects of the lives and behind the scenes of the New York City Ballet troupe. The film is a unique look of what it's like to be a performer as well going through the rigors of a tough schedule as well as physical and mental aspects.
Private Number Arc Entertainment/R/2015/1 Hour 37 MInutes A sleek little thriller that is in the vein of When A Stranger Calls and Postmortem starring a good performance by Charlie Sheen in the latter film. The film revolves around a group of threatening phone calls to former alcoholic writer attempting to finish his latest novel and soon becomes obsessed with finding the source of these phone calls with the police offering little help and soon his world starts to unravel bit by bit for a nightmarish ending.
Asylum Lionsgate/R/2015/1 Hour 33 Minutes Another thriller inspired by the hit films, The Purge and Purge Anarchy that takes places in an insane asylum. Hostage negotiator Stephen Rea is called in figure out what the heck is going on as a sinister force has taken control of he patients causing to commit henous acts of violence and terror throughout the facility. The film is not bad for its' type but I already mentioned two better ones. This one could fit in between those two films as a pretty good transition.
Asmodexia IFC Films/NR/2015/1 Hour 21 Minutes Another possession exorcism thriller about an exorcist priest who roams through the darkest parts of the country with granddaughter as they try to help those possessed by The Evil One whose powers grow stronger and stronger as the evil starts to take over the most valunerable members of society. The film features a twist that may shock or disappoint you.
The Squeeze Arc Entertainment/PG-13/1 Hour 35 Minutes A by the numbers hustler thriller featuring Peter Pan's Jeremy Sumpter as a gambling wonderkind who gets caught in a high stakes game of golf featuring some serious gamblers and underworld mafiosos that put him out of his league. This film borrows from almost every movie in the genre from Rounders to The Hustler and doesn't quite make it up to par.
Picks of the Month
F/X (****) Kino Lorber/1986/R/1 Hour 48 Minutes/1:85.1 Aspect Ratio Slick, engaging and terrific action-thriller starring Bryan Brown as a special effects movie wizard hired by the FBI to set up what appears to be a hit to kill off a Mobster named DiFranco (Law & Order's Jerry Orbach) who's under the witness protection program and is then running for his life as rogue agents try to tie up all loose ends while a hard nosed NYPD Detective (Brian Dennehy) tries to keep up with Brown's exploits in getting to the truth. One of the best and underrated action-thrillers of the 1980's, a film that really features great performances throughout and most of all, it is alot of fun with an actual believable storyline!
Apollo 13: 20th Anniversary Edition (*****) Universal/1995/PG/2 Hours 20 Minutes/2:35.1 Aspect Ratio/Special Features Included Brilliant account of the famous Apollo mission starring Oscar Winner Tom Hanks backed by a great cast including Gary Sinise, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton and Ed Harris which chronicles the account of the disasterous mission to the moon where a race against time has the three astronauts on a struggle to both survive and also return to Earth. Under the excellent direction of Oscar Winner Ron Howard, the film was nominated for 7 Academy Awards including Best Picture in 1995 and it one that is seriously underrated today. Great production design, exceptional acting and technical achievements make this a great film to revisit with this special new transfer from the films' original negative that makes it worth it.
GoodFellas: 25th Anniversary Edition (*****) Warner Bros./R/2 Hours 25 Minutes/1:85.1 Aspect Ratio/Special Features Included Easily one of the more popular gangster films in cinema history as well as the acclaimed career of Oscar Winner Martin Scorsesse which really needs no introduction that features a great cast including Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino and Oscar Winner Joe Pesci. Filled with many memorable quotes, visuals and a gritty old New York look, this film is very popular for many reasons which is why Warner Bros. has chosen to restore the film on Blu-Ray with a new 4K transfer that makes the film that much better and beautiful than ever before.
State Of Grace (****) Twilight Time/1990/R/2 Hours 14 Minutes/1:85.1 Aspect Ratio/Special Features Included Another gangster film that really got buried under all the success of GoodFellas which was released around the same time as this gritty, violent and true to life action-thriller starring Sean Penn, Gary Oldman, Robin Wright, John Turturro, John C.Reilly and Ed Harris. The film features Penn returning to his old Hell's Kitchen neighborhood to rejoin his old friend Oldman and his brother, Harris who is now running the Irish mob there. With a brewing war between the Irish and Italians, Penn tries to conceal his true agenda as he really is an undercover cop from Boston to try and bring Harris to justice which opens up old wounds and leads to serious fateful decisions that could lead him to his own grave. A tough gritty film directed by Phil Joanou, who showed alot of love and care for every aspect of it from the films' terrific performances to the New York locations that serve as another visual aspect to the story. A great mobster film to revisit.
So that'll do it for this half of the month. Look for more upcoming reviews in the next few weeks. Till then thumb is resting. Enjoy!
© 2015 DANNY GONZALEZ