The April Blu-Ray and DVD Round Up Including My Record Store Picks From Warner Bros.
So Happy Easter to one and all which has passed but no matter it's always Easter somewhere in the world. So here we offer the latest reviews for the latest releases on both Blu-Ray and DVD and maybe it could influence you to either buy, watch or completely ignore the titles altogether in some cases. So here we go!
Big Eyes (***) 2014/Starz - Anchor Bay/PG-13/1 Hour 45 Minutes/1:85.1 Aspect Ratio Director Tim Burton and Ed Wood writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karazewski reteam again for this true story account of painter Margaret Keane (Oscar Nominee Amy Adams) whose memorable expressionistic work dubbed "big eyes" which was inspired by her daughter Jane, was taken credit for by her failed painter husband Walter Keane (Two time Oscar Winner Christophe Waltz) over a period of time and throughout the world until their marriage crumbled and Walter's claims of Margaret's work being his were eventually reversed by a Hawaiian court and rightfully credited to her. The film is small and engaging work that perfectly captures its' time period perfectly. Adams and Waltz's performances is what really sells this film and this definitely Burton's lightest film of any time in quite sometime. Those beautiful paintings just sell this movie joyfully along with Danny Elfman's fine score.
Everly (**) 2014/Starz - Anchor Bay/R/1 Hour 33 Minutes/2:40.1 Aspect Ratio Bloody, violent and overwrought mess that is surprisingly entertaining at times. I said at times! The lovely Salma Hayek plays the title character a prostitute working for the Yukaza! and living in a sleek hotel owned and protected by her lover/ruthless businessman. The film revolves around the Yukuza trying to off Hayek every which way possible from bounties accepted by her follow female associates, the Yukuza henchmen, the police and her own lover! Meanwhile, her mother and young daughter are caught in the middle of a ton of shootouts, explosions and one mean doberman that meets its' explosive demise. The film was stylishly directed by Joe Lynch, who also directed another well done mess in Knights of Badassdom and if you want is a mindless and relentlessly violent hardcore pic, here it is. Hayek makes the most of a is a note performance and the film is a decent time waster. No water, but plenty of blood to be found here.
Batman Vs. Robin (***) 2015/Warner Bros./PG-13/1 Hour 20 Minutes/1:85.1 Aspect Ratio Very solid and entertaining animated entry into the DC Comics Universe involving the Dark Knight. This time around good old Batman finds himself in serious trouble when he is betrayed by his own son, Damien aka. Robin. Suspecting his old nemesis Ra's Al Goul as the culprit to his son's conversion to the dark side, Batman learns that is a secret society known as the Society of Owls that he has reached out to due to his personal inner conflicts with Batman. The film is very dark and follows the footsteps of Son Of Batman in some ways, but it just falls short of the best one in the series so far "Batman: Assault On Arkham Asylum" which is the jewel of these Direct to Digital animated Batman titles. Still much better than their last one, Justice League Throne of Atlantis. Nice special features are included here.
Annie (**1/2) 2014/Sony/PG/1 Hour 57 Minutes/2:40.1 Aspect Ratio Not bad, but not great reimagining of the 1982 classic film produced by Will Smith and Jay-Z starring Oscar Winner Jaime Foxx as the modern day Daddy Warbucks and Oscar Nominee Quvenzhane Wallis as the modern day Orphan Annie who is taken in by Foxx, who's mayorial candidate and basically takes her in at the urging of his conniving campaign manager (Bobby Cannavale). Soon Foxx warms up to Annie and starts to open up to his assistant (Rose Byrne, Damages) while Annie's bratty caretaker (Cameron Diaz) aims for her own aspiring goals. The film directed by Easy A's Will Gluck isn't a terrible film, but it lacks the energy and the originality of the 1982 film. Granted it is an update on 70 year old material, and in that way it does work, but for the most part, the emotions and joy are forced rather than natural glee which is one of the reasons the film didn't catch on as the studio thought it would. An abundance of special features is included here.
Exodus: Gods And Kings (***) 2014/ Fox/PG-13/2 Hours 30 Minutes/2:40.1 Aspect Ratio
Overwraught, but entertaining special effects dominated spectacle based one of the Bible's most endearing events as Moses played by Oscar Winner Christian Bale was chosen by God through visions to go against the Egyptian tyrant Ramses (Joel Kinnaman) in leading his people out of Egypt through the Red Sea into Canaan. The film ambitiously directed by Ridley Scott looks great, feels great but at times, doesn't stay true to the biblical ramafications of the story itself. Bale is a great Moses and does it so well you really want him to lead his people and eventually undertake the plan of implementing God's laws, The Ten Commandments in the end. The film is really harrowing after the first hour and that to me is the best part of it. But the effects are overdone at times when they don't need to be and it takes away from the memorable story you already have. This isn't the original Cecil B.Mille's portion of his great film, but Scott does what Scott does and creating a memorable spectacle. A wealth of special features are included on the 3D Blu-Ray/Blu-Ray Version and Single disc Blu-Ray Version is also available.
Harley Davidson And The Marlboro Man (***) 1991/Shout! Factory/R/1 Hour 38 Minutes/1:85.1 Aspect Ratio Sensational and underrated action-comedy starring Mickey Rourke as Harley and Don Johnson as The Marlboro Man best friends who each ride a Harley and get into plenty of trouble with both women and all assorted unfriendlies. When their favorite Houston bar is being bought out by a ruthless, corrupt banker (Tom Sizemore, Heat), the pair try to help their friend save the bar by pulling off an armored car heist which goes wrong and instead of money, they end up with a shipment of a valuable synthetic drug which the banker sends his henchman (Daniel Baldwin, Homicide: Life On The Street) to get the money back at all cost including eliminating Harley and Marlboro. The film is slickly directed by Simon Wincer and has solid pacing and very colorful characters that are fun. This easily was Rourke's best film during this time period along with Johnson and features a fine score by the late Basil Poledouris to boot.
Eddie And The Cruisers/Eddie And The Cruisers 2: Eddie Lives Double Feature 1983 (***)/1989 (**)/Shout! Factory/PG/1 Hour 35 Minutes/Aspect Ratio: 1:85.1 This double feature bill features the original 1983 cult classic film featuring one of the 80's best soundtracks. The film stars Michael Pare as the charismatic singer of a group called Eddie And The Cruisers that leads to stardom and fame which leads to a tragic conclusion of sorts. The film also features Tom Berenger, Ellen Barkin and Joe Pantoliano in early roles and is easily the better of the two films and speaking of which. A sequel produced in Canada! in Canada no less features the return of Pare as a now reclusive Eddie living in Canada working in a mill where no one seems to recognize him as a mega star. Until a reporter starts to snoop around and discovers his secret and his groups old unreleased recordings surface to the public, Eddie starts to long for joys of singing and the limelight he desperately disappeared from all those years ago. This double feature disc is very good for what it is,
Cooley High (***) Olive Films/1976/PG/1 Hour 47 Minutes/1:85.1 Aspect Ratio Fun and enjoyable growing of age comedy set in 1964 about two best friends, a serious and focused writer (Glynn Turman) and a budding high school basketball star (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs of Welcome Back, Kotter) both heading to college. But during their final year, they end up having the time of their lives cutting classes, crashing parties, and putting the hustle on some local hoods as part of the joys of getting out of their run down neighborhood. With all of this good stuff comes serious trouble in the form of local hoods, who target the boys after they go on a joyride gone wrong. A fine film that was a hit with many and has remained a cult classic since its' release and making its' debut here on Blu-Ray.
Blue Sky (***) Olive Films/1991/PG-13/1 Hour 41 Minutes/1:85.1 Aspect Ratio The film is notable for three reasons. The first one is that it was released three years after it was finished by the defunct Orion Pictures which went bankrupt despite back to back Oscar Winners in both Dances With Wolves and Silence Of The Lambs. The second it was the final film of legendary director Tony Richardson and lastly, it won Jessica Lange a long delayed Oscar (4 years if you count the days leading up to the 1995 Oscar Ceremony!) playing the volitile and philandering wife of Oscar Winner Tommy Lee Jones military husband who already at odds with his superior officers about the uses of weapons testing to the point that his opinions, values and importance are going completely ignored. The film is worth seeing for Jones and Lange who easily make the film alongside the performances of a young Chris O'Donnell and Amy Locane. But really is more of a swan song for director Richardson and a triumph for Jessica Lange.
Firewalker (***) Olive Films/1986/PG/1 Hour 46 Minutes/1:85.1 Aspect Ratio Fun, and goofy mock adventure film if you don't take it too seriously. Chuck Norris, playing against his tough guy hero type for most of the film stars with Oscar Winner Louis Gossett, Jr. as pair of adventurers looking to strike gold in anything when the lovely and klutzy Melody Anderson comes into their lives. Anderson plays a secretary who has knowledge of a secret stash of Mayan gold that first leads them to a sacred dagger needed for their journey while being tailed by a vicious Indian cyclop named El Coyote (the late Sonny Landum) on their journey through Central America encountering everything from local bar scum, horny soldiers and an old friend of Norris' (Lord Of The Rings' John Rhys-Davies) on their way to fame and fortune. The film which was produced by Cannon (yes them!) is easily one of their better films and that isn't saying much, but like I said if you don't take it seriously, you'll like it more.
Bio-Dome (**) Olive Films/1996/PG-13/1 Hour 28 Minutes/1:85.1 Aspect Ratio Pauly Shore strikes again. You couldn't go throughout the first half of the 1990s without having a Pauly Shore movie in theatrical release and granted a lot of them aren't bad. Well...except for Jury Duty remember that one! I'd rather NOT and nor do you! This film isn't that bad nor that good at least it has a message of sorts which is basically about saving the environment in which two lazy slackers Shore and the unbelievely miscast Stephen Baldwin (in a role that I think was meant for Brendan Fraser for he grew a brain and started doing better films like George Of The Jungle) as Bud and Doyle who have two girlfriends (one of them is the sexy Joey Lauren Adams of Mallrats) who are environmental supporters and when the pair unintentionally enters a scientific experiment headed by peacely administrator (Henry Gibson, The Burbs) called "Bio-Dome" near the girls local college campus, they end up stuck inside for a year with the maniacal William Atherton (Ghostbusters) and the super hot, Kylie Minogue (who wouldn't want to be stuck with her!). They soon learn a lesson that life isn't a party and that you have to respect your surroundings. The film isn't bad by any means, but definitely not one of Shore's best either. That honor still goes to Encino Man with Son In Law not too far off.
The odds and ends!
Manhattan Season 1 2014-15/Lionsgate/TV-14/622 Minutes/1:78.1 Aspect Ratio Hit WGN television series makes its' debut that revolves around the members of the legendary "Manhattan Project" which eventually led to the creation of the atom bomb used during World War 2. The series revolves around the scientists' personal lives in, around and outside of the project itself which was kept completely out of the public eye and really affected their families in the process. A well packed set that features a series that at times struggles to juggle all of these characters and their personal dilemmas on an even field. Perhaps season two which is announced on the packaging will make it little more clearer and more dramatic.
I Am Steve McQueen 2014/Shout! Factory/NR/66 Minutes/1:78.1 Aspect Ratio Very interesting documentary featuring everyone who knew the iconic movie star including his ex-wife Ali McGraw, his son, Chad McQueen and a host of other current actors who look back at the career of the legendary movie star whose charisma and style defined Hollywood. This is a brief and engaging documentary that makes you want more, but sadly isn't here. Not bad for its' type, but easily could've been more padded out to be honest.
Island Of Lemurs: Madagascar 3D Warner Bros./2014/44 Minutes/1:78.1 Aspect Ratio Fun, insightful and very charming film narrated by the soothing informative voice of Oscar Winner Morgan Freeman that follows Dr. Patricia C. Wright's mission to help lemurs, the highly evolved creatures who arrived on Madagascar millions of years ago as castaways but are now highly endangered. A wonderful film that is very educational, but unfortunately very brief and leaves you wanting for more which was shot and shown at IMAX theaters throughout the country last year is a welcome and sharp documentary that children and adults should see.
Manny 2014/Starz!-Anchor Bay/PG-13/1 Hour 27 Minutes/1:78.1 Aspect Ratio Well produced and insightful documentary on the famous championship boxer narrated by the kick ass Liam Neeson which tells his story growing up poor and having to help find ways to feed his family to politics and now to one of the best and possibly greatest boxers in boxing today. The film is well directed by Ryan Moore and Leon Gast, a veteran who directed the well reviewed, When We Were Kings in the late 1990s. This is certainly one of the best films of its' type.
Echoes 2014/Anchor Bay/NR/1 Hour 28 Minutes/2:40.1 Aspect Ratio Another one of those shock if it'll scare you films this time starring the lovely Kate French (the only good thing about this film even in her sleepwalking performance), an author and screenwriter to the bullish and commanding publisher boyfriend (The Scorpion King's Steven Brand) who suffering from sleep paralysis takes a vacation to a glass house in the desert at the urging of her boyfriend for some much needed rest and relaxation hoping that the time away will help her both physically and emotionally. After he's called away on urgent business, French finds her alone and in the presence of something sinister that is going all around her which leads to the ultimate bad revelation as most films of this type lead up to.
Record Store Day Picks by Warner Bros.
Singles (****) Warner Bros./1992/PG-13/1 Hour 39 Minutes/1:85.1 Aspect Ratio Fun, underrated comedy from the mind of Writer/Director Cameron Crowe, who scored a major hit with Say Anything as his directorial debut starring John Cusack two years prior. The film revolves around a group of single men and women who live in the same apartment complex in Seattle where romances, break ups, and great music soundtrack abound in this delightful film. Featuring a great cast including Bridget Fonda, Campbell Scott, Kyra Sedgwick, Sheila Kelley, Bill Pullman and Matt Dillon, there is a lot of energy here and a great postcard to early 90's grunge rock as well. Making its Blu-Ray debut featuring a wealth of deleted scenes including a storyline that was truncated in the films' final cut that featured Fonda and Pullman is included along with fun extras as well.
Detroit Rock City (****) Warner Bros.1999//R/1 Hour 34 Minutes/2:35.1 Aspect Ratio Fun, audacious and yet another underrated comedy that slipped through the cracks during the Summer/Fall of 1999 about a group of high schoolers featuring T2's Edward Furlong, Sam Huntington, Guiseppe Andrews and James DeBello who travel to Detroit to see their all time favorite band, KISS! The group encounter plenty of trouble from the likes of a disco loving groupies, religious parents, punks, car thieves and the sexy Shannon Tweed! Directed with high energy by Director Adam Rifkin is definitely a love letter to the famous rock group and is a lot of fun to be had here and easily one of the reasons why it's worth seeing. All of the special features from the Special Edition DVD have been included here rounding out a great package.
Empire Records (****) Warner Bros./1995/PG-13/1 Hour 30 Minutes/2:35.1 Aspect Ratio Another fun, high energy 1990s comedy that features a cast of rising stars including Oscar Winner Rene Zelleweiger (before her plastic surgery), Liv Tyler, Robin Tunney, Rory Cochrane, Ethan Embry and Johnny Whitworth as a group of young adults working in a record store run by the ultra cool Anthony LaPaglia. The film revolves around a fun filled, turbulent day where all of everyone's personal problems come to light along with the fact that their beloved store is about to become a commercialized Top 40 selling store. The film which pretty much came and went in the fall of 1995 has become a cult classic and for good reason, it's damn good. This movie is a lot of fun and the cast is very appealing and brimming with energy along with its' top selling soundtrack. What is very disappointing is that the longer, extended cut dubbed as the "Remix Edition" which ran 17 Minutes longer isn't included here, but the deleted scenes and the special features from that version are here.
Movie Pick Of The Month
Hoop Dreams (****) Criterion Collection/1994/PG-13/2 Hours 57 Minutes/1:33.1 Aspect Ratio One of the more memorable and unforgettable films I've ever seen. A wonderful true life story of two young Chicago boys named Arthur Agee and William Gates both talented and skilled playground basketball players who grew up in tough urban city neighborhood with dreams of making it into the NBA. The film's harrowing narrative takes the pair through a journey of eight years (think Richard Linklater's Boyhood) from 1986 to the film's debut 1994 at the Sundance Film Festival, as we see them grow up and go through personal triumphs and tragedies. Gates suffers through not one, but two knee surgeries as well as the birth of his baby daughter. The pressures of passing the ACT exam as well his performance on the court in which he starts to become disillusioned as well the mounting pressures of winning for his team. Agee's mother, Sheila goes through a rough period with his father Bo, who was addicted to crack cocaine and eventually went to jail and eventually returned along with financial troubles to the point that they spent three months without electricity. The film is a raw and emotional look at these two great families suffering through everything life had to throw at them and still does. The Criterion Collection give this film it's great just due when they included the film as part of their famous collection ten years ago and was a great release. This new Blu-Ray is even more spectacular and it is well deserving of a restoration. This is really a special film that everyone should see that is just magical and still sparkles after twenty years. If there is any regret and that should go to the documentary branch of the Oscars is that it has never given the film the proper acclaim and award that it was robbed of when the film was purposely snubbed by the voters which was later revealed in an Entertainment Weekly article months after the Oscar ceremonies took place. The film deserves to be recognized again and was easily championed by both the late critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert as their best film of 1994 and of the decade.
That'll do it for this week. Stay tuned for more later in the month including Twilight Time and then some!
All About Tim Burton!
What is the best film that Tim Burton has ever directed?
Did you know?
That Pauly Shore had his own television series on Fox that debuted in Fall 1996 called...Pauly. Naturally!