Even More March Madness Blu-Ray & DVD Reviews
John Wick (****) Lionsgate/2014/R/1 Hour 33 Minutes/2:40.1 Aspect Ratio. Sensational and extremely entertaining action thriller starring Keanu Reeves as a retired former mob assassin named John Wick who's wife died of cancer when the son of a mob boss stupidly steals his car and his beloved dog, who was his wife's last gift to him. Wick soon vows revenge and goes on a rampage in his old stomping grounds while still following the assassins code he sworn to uphold. During his mission, he encounters a sleek and sexy assassin (the lovely Adrianne Palicki),a friend and mentor (Willem Dafoe) and all of his old associates (including a really cool Ian McShane and The Wire's Lance Reddick) aiding or trying to kill him. The film is just visually stunning with all of the action sequences playing like a violent ballet that hasn't been seen since the 1990s. Reeves is perfectly cast as the grieving avenger and the direction by first timer Chad Stahelski is first rate. Let's hope there is a sequel in store because I definitely want to see John Wick continue his journey again. A nice set of special features including a well produced making of and a digital copy is also included.
Fury (***1/2) Sony/2014/R/2 Hours 14 Minutes/2:40.1 Aspect Ratio Well shot and well acted, but way over the top WWII thriller starring Brad Pitt nicknamed "Wardaddy" as the leader of a squad of tankers including Shia LeBeouf, Michael Pena and Logan Lerman on a mission of course take out any and every Nazi soldier they could eliminate. Writer/Director David Ayer's film is a very intense and almost realistic film that at times loses a little bit of its' focus when he goes overboard with the violence (doesn't the bullet fire look like the lasers from Star Wars?) with lots of people getting blown up and heads blown off on screen which adds to the realism which is probably Ayer's purposeful intention. Pitt is really good here as the nonsense and hardened commander and is not a likeable character to be honest, but in a way is very charismatic with his actions which is pretty much shoot first and ask questions later. Great production design and solid pace make the film a really good buy or rental. Special features are included along with a digital copy of the film.
Nightcrawler (*****) Universal/2014/R/1 Hour 58 Minutes/2:40.1 Aspect Ratio Sensational and wonderful noir thriller stars Jake Gyllenhaal in an oscar worthy performance as a rookie stringer or night crawler named Lou Bloom who goes all around Los Angeles intercepting police scanner calls capturing crimes, accidents or anything else that would make headline news on his videocamera and sell them to the highest bidder. When Bloom stumbles upon a home invasion (or so it seems) in which he and his assistant get there before the police capturing everything on tape. Soon he finds himself in danger and a possible suspect by the police when the video makes the airwaves thanks to a ruthless ratings hungry station manager (Rene Russo, in another Oscar caliber performance). The film is a tough, gritty and intense character study of a guy who's down and out only to find a niche' thriving in the misery and despair of the innocent victims and criminals that he films. Gyllenhaal who lost more than 30 pounds is dead on here and he is the films' soul with a deadpan delivery with his long and subtle delivery of long monologues that make you either want to root for him or you'd want to see him disappear. This is Writer Dan Gilroy's directorial debut and it is a great one and it is a real shame the film was completely overlooked by Oscar voters because it could've easily been a Best Picture Contender and in another year, it easily would've been nominated. Still regardless, it is a great film worth seeing again and again especially for Gyllenhaal. A very brief featurette (which doesn't do justice), a DVD and a digital copy of the film are included.
The Best Of Me (***) Fox/2014/PG-13/Theatrical Cut, 1 Hour 49 Minutes & Tears Of Joy Edition 1 Hour 56 Minutes/2:40.1 Aspect Ratio This is yet another adaptation of yet another Nicholas Sparks novel (it seems that we get one of these a year!) about two former teenage lovers Dawson (X-Men's James Marsden) and Amanda (the lovely Michelle Monaghan of Mission: Impossible 3) who are reunited when the caretaker and adopted father (Simon & Simon's Gerald McRainey) passes away. This awkward reunion soon starts to spark a long lost romance that had been shattered and interrupted when they were forced to go their separate ways when an accident involving Dawson's friend and abusive father. After surviving a near death experience, Dawson learns that Amanda is in the middle of a long unhappy marriage and their feelings for each other have never stopped. Directed by Michael Hoffman, the film is well shot and beautifully produced. Yet, it is a little too syrupy and neat that even the gritty parts of it feel little out of place or choreographed like a Lifetime movie. Marsden is brooding too perfectly at first, but you do come to like him once the sparks with he and Monaghan really develop. The Notebook this is not, but this isn't a bad film to see. The set features a nice set of special features, two versions of the film including the version I saw with the tacked on special ending and a digital copy.
Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (**1/2) Disney/2014/PG/1 Hour 21 Minutes/2:40.1 Aspect Ratio A slight, but often charming comedy based on a beloved children's book that stars the likeable Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner as the well meaning and loving parents of a clan of kids including Alexander (newcomer Ed Oxenbould) in which after being picked on makes a wish for everyone to have a terrible day like he often does. That wish comes true...one his birthday! His brother wakes up with a knot on his head and is having troubles with his girlfriend (Bella Thorne) about the prom along with an impending driving test, his sister (Kerris Dorsey) wakes up with a cold just in time for her school play in which she plays Peter Pan, his father (Carell) has a job interview with a computer company which doesn't go as planned and his mom (Garner) is having problems at work when book reading with Dick Van Dyke in which he reads from a misprinted copy, while their one of their cars has no battery and their mini-van ends up a hot mess by the end of the day. The film is very frenetically paced over its' 81 Minute running time and for the most part a lot of the humor is a little forced and a times, very flat. Carell and Garner really lack the energy to be the couple of this goofy clan at times, both Garner and Carell look a little exhausted from the lack of nothing to do was well as the usually dependable Miguel Arteta's direction. Oxenbould really is the one that carries this film and probably the sole reason to watch it. Some features are included along with Digital Copy of the film.
Laggies (****) Lionsgate/2014/R/1 Hour 40 Minutes/1:85.1 Aspect Ratio This is a surprisingly likeable and charming comedy that stars Keira Knightley, who's really blossomed in the last year as actress with Begin Again and her Oscar nominated turn in "The Imitation Game" as a thirty something commitment phobe named Megan, who lives her life as she did back in high school. When a marriage proposal to her long time and uber boring boyfriend (Mark Webber) freaks her out, Knightley takes refuge at the home of a teenager Annika (the lovely Chloe Grace Moretz) who she met and bought beers for her and her friends. They start to become close friends and starts to fall for her father Craig (the fun Sam Rockwell), a divorcee who feels very sympathetic to her and is genuinely attracted to. The film directed by Lynn Shelton, has a laid back style and Knightley, Rockwell and Moretz are really good together. Some features are included along with a Digital Copy of the film.
Dying Of The Light (***) Lionsgate/R/1 Hour 34 Minutes/2:40.1 Aspect Ratio This is an at times very engaging and entertaining action thriller that is a little too slowly paced to really enjoy. Oscar Winner (feels like 20 years ago!) Nicolas Cage stars as a CIA Agent named Evan Lake who during a mission was tortured by a terrorist and for 21 years has been haunted by that fact after his rescue. Waiting to get back to the field to find this now elusive criminal, Lake starts to suffer from early stages of dimensia which is starting to affect him mentally and physically and gets a lead with the help of his colleague (Anton Yelchin) and former lover (Irene Jacob) tracking him to Europe and eventually, Africa to finally fulfill his destiny. The film which was directed by the excellent Paul Schrader, is an uneven mess at times and a solid thriller in others. Cage does well with a rather paper thin character with his animated expressions and rantings that used to be very hip and cool 20 years ago, now he's just really trying too hard. Yelchin is a good foil, but he's just to restrained match Cage's intensity at times, but does well with a character that is pretty much that of a sidekick. The film really does have life when Jacob appears on screen and I honestly wish there was more of her in the film because her and Cage do click and it would've been nice to see the extent of what was their relationship fully explained. Since the film is treated more as a revenge flick, there really isn't room for these characters to truly develop into something good. It is a pretty decent film and a strong one for Cage unlike his other for the money projects of late.
The Homesman (****) Lionsgate/R/2 Hours 2 Minutes/2:40.1 Aspect Ratio Solid Western film Directed and co-starring Tommy Lee Jones which is beautifully shot and scored by Marco Beltrami. The film stars two-time Oscar Winner Hilary Swank as a strong and independent pioneer woman in 1854 who is given the task to escort three women from the harshness of the Nebraska frontier to Iowa with the help of a conniving claim jumper (Jones). The film features an interesting and eclectic cast that also includes Oscar Winner Meryl Streep, Oscar nominee and rising star Hailee Steinfeld, The Blacklist's James Spader and The Lord of the Rings' Miranda Otto amongst others that is a little slowly paced but is engaging enough to keep us interested in the plight of these desperate people. Three featurettes and a digital copy are included with the film.
Horrible Bosses 2 (**) Warner Bros./R, Theatrical Cut 1 Hour 48 Minutes/Unrated Extended Cut 1 Hour 56 Minutes/2:40.1 Aspect Ratio Disappointing sequel to the rich, hilarious and over the top comedy from 2011 that starred Jason Bateman, Jason Sedikus and Charlie Day as three losers intimidated and abused by their respective bosses. In this sequel, the trio return as they form their own business with their own invention called the "Shower Buddy" which draws interest from a rich businessman (Oscar Winner Christophe Waltz) and his conniving son (Star Trek's Chris Pine). When the trio is screwed out of the deal along with their great idea by the duo, they attempt to hatch their own payback by kidnapping the son and holding him ransom to get their idea back as well as the money they were owed. However, the son has his own plans and recruits the trio, to follow up on their idea with a twist. The film is overlong and at times, a little too flat for its' own good. The energy of the original film is simply isn't there and Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Spacey who return from the original film are easily the best things about it along with Jaime Foxx, who is also wasted here. Waltz has nothing but a glorified cameo and Pine just channels his "Smokin' Aces" character. A real disappointment. Nice special features, a DVD and a digital copy are included
Justice League: Throne Of Atlantis (**1/2) Warner Bros./PG-13/1 Hour 12 Minutes/1:78.1 Aspect Ratio Underwhelming and occasionally entertaining entry into DC Universe featuring one of the underwhelming characters in Aquaman, at least until Game of Thrones' Jason Momoa's grand appearance in the upcoming "Batman vs. Superman" next year. When Atlantis attacks the Metropolis for the death of their king, the Queen has different plans and requires the Justice League to find her lost son. But while they search for him, Atlantian troops; lead by Ocean Master, continue their assault. The film is lacking the energy of the previous DC Universe films and mainly the cream of the crop of "Batman: Assault On Arkham Asylum" which is a masterpiece of these films. There is a talented cast featuring Rosario Dawson, Sean Astin and Nathan Fillion, but the animation or the energy is simply not there and it's a real shame because Aquaman is one of the more intriguing characters featured in the DC universe that yet to be fully given its' credit or origin story told properly. Nice features, a DVD and a digital copy are also included.
LEGO Justice League vs. Bizarro League: DC Comics Super Heroes (***) Warner Bros./2015/TV-Y7-FV/44 Minutes/1:78.1 Aspect Ratio Fun little film inspired what would seem like an epilogue to the upcoming "Batman Vs. Superman" film next year Batman has joined the just formed Justice League in order to keep tabs on Superman, a mistrust that is complicated by Superman’s evil clone Bizarro and his creation of the Bizarro League, but an even bigger threat forces the two Leagues to join forces to stop it. The film is a nice little time killer in which younger kids of all ages will enjoy and marvel in the beautiful colorful rendering established by the great "Lego Movie" and amazing to look at. Special features, a digital copy and a Lego Bizarro figure is included.
About Schmidt (***) Warner Bros./2002/R/2 Hours 4 Minutes/1:85.1 Aspect Ratio Solid and engaging drama Directed and adapted by Alexander Payne prior to his Oscar darling, Sideways two years later. The film stars Oscar Winner Jack Nicholson in one of his finest roles plays the canktankerous Warren Schimidt, an insurance salesman who's at the end of his career with a wife he can't stand, a daughter (Hope Davis) who's engaged to a waterbed salesman (Dermot Mulroney) who he doesn't approve of, a longtime best friend who turns out to be a hypocrite and with all of these things, he feels isolated and lonely now that he's retired from his job trying to find something meaningful in his life. The film also stars Oscar Winner Kathy Bates as the perfect match for Nicholson's character. The film is very good for what it is and while there are some moments that drag a bit, there is plenty to like about it. However, the film's obvious soul is Nicholson himself whose sly remarks and attitude are just perfect for this character. Payne, of course would go on to do better films such Sideways and this film was just one big step forward. Deleted Scenes, a trailer and a short subject is included.
Diner (****) Warner Bros./1982/R/1 Hour 50 Minutes/1:85.1 Aspect Ratio Wonderful coming of age drama Written and Directed by Barry Levinson, who after a distinguished career as a writer with his then wife, Valerie Curtin would make his directorial debut with this film. The film features a great young all-star cast that includes Steve Guttenburg (Police Academy), Kevin Bacon (Footloose), Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler), Daniel Stern (Home Alone), Timothy Daly (Wings), Ellen Barkin (Sea Of Love) and Paul Reiser (Mad About You) taking place in 1959 Baltimore during the Christmas holidays where they share the ups and downs of relationships, gambling addictions, friendships and the impending wedding of their best friend while they all hang out at their favorite Diner. This is a terrific film that has aged a bit, but all of these terrific actors along with a terrific soundtrack really make this film a memorable one with excellent direction by Levinson, who really doesn't hold back here and goes all out to make his debut easily one of his best and of course, would lead to one special film two years later in "The Natural" with Robert Redford, a true sports classic of the genre. A very special film that is worth seeking out and makes a sensational Blu-Ray debut including an introduction by the director and the films' stars, a lengthy retrospective on the film and the trailer is included.
The Replacements (***1/2) Warner Bros./PG-13/1 Hour 58 Minutes/1:85.1 Aspect Ratio Charming and very funny comedy that was based on the real life 1987 NFL Players Strike stars Keanu Reeves as a washed up college quarterback recruited by the Tom Landry-esque coach Gene Hackman to play for the Washington Sentinels football team and lead a group of misfits, has beens and never will be's that included Writer/Director Jon Favreau (who's hilarious in this film), Mad TV's Orlando Jones, Friday's Faison Love and Notting Hill's Rhys Ifans to lead them into the playoffs while falling in love with the teams' head cheerleader (the lovely Brooke Langton). The great former head coach and announcer John Madden lends his talents in the booth to make this outrageous comedy Directed by Howard Deutch (Pretty In Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful) very engaging and really hard not to like.
Charlie And The Chocolate Factory: 10th Anniversary Edition (***) Warner Bros./PG/1 Hour 55 Minutes/1:85.1 Aspect Ratio Remake of the classic Roald Dahl book and 1971 film features Johnny Depp as the Willy Wonka in the role that Gene Wilder made lovingly famous in the early 70's. This time around the film is a bit darker than its' cheerful predecessor as Willy Wonka decides to let five children into his chocolate factory, he decides to release five golden tickets in five separate chocolate bars, causing complete mayhem. Soon the tickets are found with the fifth going to a very special boy named Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore) who with his Grandpa Joe (David Kelly), join the rest of the children to experience the most amazing factory ever with everything not going according to plan for Willy and company. The film was a major hit and it was a stylized modern update of what many deem as the perfect classic children's film. This new edition features some very nice packaging along with a new special feature featuring Tim Burton's picture in picture insight on scenes in the film which is a very nice feature to go along with a 32 page color booklet with production stills, a nice slipcover and all the special features from the original Blu-Ray release.
From the Olive Tree
Caveman (****) Olive Films/1981/PG/1 Hour 31 Minutes/1:85.1 Aspect Ratio Fun, goofy and hilariously entertaining comedy by Writer/Director Carl Gottlieb which ironically was conceived as a documentary!. This charming comedy with very cheesy and purposely funny special effects stars Beatles' drummer Ringo Starr as Atouk, the goofy leader of a new renegade group of cavepeople including Dennis Quaid as his best friend, Shelley Long as his love interest and Jack Gilpin as her blind father amongst others as they discover feelings of love as Atouk is infatuated with Lana (Starr's real life wife, Barbara Bach) the girl of a tough leader (late NFL football star John Matusak), walking up right, music and creating the largest human omelet in prehistoric history! Making it's debut on Blu-Ray, this movie just funny all throughout and featuring a fun Lalo Schifrin score to boot.
Pysch-Out: The Director's Cut (***) Olive Films/1968/NR/1 Hour 41 Minutes/1:85.1 Aspect Ratio Tripped out fun from the famed Director of the brilliant "The Stunt Man" and infamous, "Color Of Night". Richard Rush directs this tale that features an all-star cast including Oscar Winner Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern, Dean Stockwell and Susan Strasberg. Strasberg plays Jenny, an innocent young deaf non-hippie who's in search of her artist brother (Dern) whose disappeared into one acidic trip to many when she hooks up with a rock band with it's leader Stoney (Nicholson) who he and his bandmates decide to help the country bumpkin. Soon they learn that Jenny is on the run from the cops and Stoney and his bandmates do their best to protect her. The film is filmed in a trippy landscape which matches Rush's visual style that would pay off later on in his other films. Not a bad film and it's always interesting to see Nicholson in his earlier roles which would ultimately lead him to the greener pastures of "Easy Rider" and "Five Easy Pieces" in concecutive years.
Beach Blanket Bingo (**1/2) Olive Films/1965/NR/1 Hour 38 Minutes/2:35.1 Aspect Ratio Fun in the 60's sun with those wonderful beach movie staples singer Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello (who were married in real life and find a great niche promoting Skippy peanut butter in the 80's) as well later making a return later on with the wonderful "Back To The Beach" (that definitely needs to be on Blu-Ray!) in 1987 as an homage to these films they starred in. This is their fourth and very successful outing of this type of film that involves a motorcycle gang led by the leader, Von Zipper who kidnaps a music star named Sugar Kane who is managed by the Bullets. He then hires sky-diving surfers Steve and Bonnie from Big Drop for a publicity stunt to get him back. These are the type of films that no one really appreciates anymore and Avalon and Funicello are at their smiling best with a paper thin plot as these films normally are and do it in style.
How To Murder Your Wife (***) Olive Films/1965/NR/1 Hour 58 Minutes/1:85.1 Aspect Ratio This slapstick comedy starring Oscar Winner Jack Lemmon as a pompus playboy living a glamour lifestyle of a bachelor which he thinks is quite perfect. Until, one night he gets completely drunk and finds himself married to the sexy Verna Lisi the next day. Desperate to get back to the lifestyle he'd been accustomed to by dreaming up schemes of murdering her. The film follows the plot of Unfaithfully Yours and it unfortunately drags a little too long at close two hours, but worth seeing for Lemmon before his great performance as the prissy Felix Unger in The Odd Couple as well as the sexy Lisi.
1969 (**1/2) Olive Films/1988/R/1 Hour 35 Minutes/1:85.1 Aspect Ratio This growing of age comedy-drama stars Robert Downey, Jr. and Kiefer Sutherland as best friends who live in a small town that is just beginning to become disillusioned by the Vietnam War. They're joined by Winona Ryder (pre-Heathers and Beetlejuice) to join in some fun in Writer/Director Ernest Thompson's film. Not a bad film featuring three future stars before they really became stars especially Ryder.
Odds and Ends
Tarzan (**) Lionsgate/PG/1 Hour 34 Minutes/2:40.1 Aspect Ratio Disappointing animated version from Germany of the legendary character which Disney did better in the late 1990s and there's an upcoming live action version as well. This version features the voice of Kellan Lutz as the King of the Jungle, and Spencer Locke as Jane that does feature some nice moments, but overall is a little underewhelming however it does feature a robust score by David Newman that gives it a more exciting feel.
Nurse Jackie Season 6 Lionsgate/2014/336 Minutes. The latest season release of the hit Emmy winning series starring Emmy Winner Edie Falco continues its' strong series following and this latest release will not disappoint.
Richard Pryor Omit The Logic (***) Magnolia/R/1 Hour 23 Minutes/1:78.1 Aspect Ratio Fine documentary on the life and times of the great comic Richard Pryor who battled personal addictions to drugs while enjoying great success as a great comedian. The film features a lot of new indepth interviews from everyone of the likes of Mel Brooks, Lily Tomlin, the late Robin Williams, Writer/Director Paul Schrader and many others, who spoke highly him. This film originally aired on Showtime a couple of years ago and it is making its' debut on Blu-Ray.
The Aviators (***) Cinedigm/Not Rated/2008/1 Hour 13 Minutes/1:78.1 Aspect Ratio Charming little animated tale featuring the voices of Jeff Foxworthy and Brad Garrett set during World War I follows the adventures of a courageous and clumsy, group of pigeons and their sidekick, a resourceful engineer mouse as their small farm is turned into a military training post and communications centre for the Allies, the group of unlikely heroes enlists as carrier pigeons and bravely complete airborne missions to assist the soldiers on the battlefield. Long delayed film from 2008(!) makes a nice debut on Blu-Ray here in the U.S.
Syncopation (***) Cohen Media Group/1941/NR/1 Hour 28 Minutes/1:37 Aspect Ratio Jazz soaked drama with actual live performances by some of the greatest jazz players including Benny Goodman, Harry James, Gene Krupa, Duke Ellington and others as the backdrop of a World War I tale with complicated characters and backstories. An interesting film that is very simple and to the point, with great music in the background by the great jazzmasters.
Poker Night (*1/2) Xrator/2014/NR/1 Hour 45 Minutes/2:40.1 Aspect Ratio Contrived and at times, entertaining thriller featuring the likes of Ron Pearlman, Giancarlo Esposito, Titus Welliver, Beau Mirchoff and Ron Eldard amongst others as a rooke detective recently promoted is featured at a poker game as they exchange personal war stories each officer feels is a good lession for survival. Until the rookie is abducted and kept in a basement by a psychopath who's also kidnapped a girl and proceeds to torture him as a personal vendetta. This film isn't any different than any of those thrillers like "Saw" for example that use the kidnapping plot as pretty much as a decoy for a twist or in some cases, twists. This film would definitely fit this category and if you're a fan of those, you'll probably like this one.
Wahlburgers Season 2 Lionsgate/2014/198 Minutes After a successful first season for this fun reality show starring the Wahlberg clan and enjoyable escapades of their profiting burger joint in Boston as well as their lives outside the limelight. Fun, fun and more fun!
Pick of the Month
The Frank Darabont Collection (The Shawshank Redemption/The Green Mile/The Majestic) Warner Bros./3 Disc Set/ R & PG-13/1:85.1 Aspect Ratio for each film Writer/Director Frank Darabont enjoyed his most exciting success when he was working with Warner Bros. especially when both his brilliant adaptations of Stephen King's "The Shawshank Redemption" (*****/1994/2 Hours 22 Minutes) and "The Green Mile" (*****1/2/1999/3 Hours 8 Minutes) were both critical and commercial successes that earned well deserved Oscar nominations for each including Darabont himself. This collection of films featured in this lovely packaged box set includes the final film (to date) that he's done for the studio, the sappy theatrical misfire "The Majestic" (****/2001/2 Hours 33 Minutes, which will be made available individually as this collection) which starred Jim Carrey in his third dramatic role after the critically as a blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter named Peter, who gets drunk one night after losing his job and girlfriend in one day who washes ashore after a car accident up the California coast to a small town where he wakes up with amnesia and is mistaken for the long lost son of a movie theater owner (Oscar Winner Martin Landau) a soldier named Luke who fought in WWII. He adjusts to his "new life" in this small town reopening and running his father's beloved movie theater called "The Majestic" and develops a romance with the girlfriend (Laurie Holden) who thought he had lost. Soon things start to come back to him and he'll have to make a decision on what he wants for his present and his future. The film isn't quite as popular or memorable as Darabont's Stephen King adaptations, but this is a charming and underrated film where Carrey is actually really likeable and doesn't try to force any of his comic schtick too hard just playing it straight. The supporting cast is also excellent and features a nice score by Mark Isham, the film deserves to be in this collection and one that is really worth getting especially if you don't have any of these films already and in particular the rediscovery of "The Majestic"
That will do it for this bi-weekly review session. Stay tuned for the next one in a few days with Twilight Time Titles and even more special surprises!