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The End of March Madness Blu-Ray & DVD Reviews
We've reached the end of March and there has been plenty of films released on Blu-Ray to choose from so for this review hub (I gotta get used to this) we'll concentrate on a few of them along with recent DVD's as well.
Interstellar (***) Paramount/PG-13/2 Hours 49 Minutes/Aspect Ratios: 2:40.1/1:78.1 for IMAX filmed scenes. This is easily a film that you either love it or hate it and in some cases, it's both. Oscar Winner Matthew McCaughney stars as a former Air Force pilot/engineer and father of two who lives with his young son and daughter and his father in law (John Lithgow) when he and his daughter on a corn farm discover a mysterious occurrence which leads them to a top secret military base where what's left of NASA has been sheltered as they build and prepare for a mission to find a suitable planet for the human race to continue to go on living led by the benevolent Michael Caine. McCaughney is recruited by Caine to go on a mission toward Saturn where a worm hole (spoiler alert: could lay the key for hospitable planets) accompanied by Oscar Winner Anne Hathaway. A tricky and at times, frustrating plot soon takes place involving time soon takes over the film as McCaughney and Hathaway explore the planets while his grown kids (Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain and Casey Affleck) are stuck on Earth while the planet lays dying trying to figure out the key to reversing the gravitational problem the planet is suffering through. The film is great to look on a technical level, it is a brilliant production...but this film really lags during the middle portion of the film which is to me the most frustrating and infurating once we get into some rather routine action material featuring an unbilled Oscar Winner Matt Damon. I liked most of the performances, but Christopher Nolan needed to simplify the story just a bit as well as edit out twenty minutes of the film to make it a more intense and well paced film. This film reminds me a lot of Terry Gilliam's Brazil in that it has really high ambitions but lot of them do fall a little short. I'm still giving the film a good recommendation for its visuals and great group of actors. A loaded Blu-Ray set featuring over hours of special features are just as interesting as the film is.
U-Turn (**1/2) 1997/R/2 Hours 2 Minutes/1:85.1 Aspect Ratio: Slick, meandering and at times, enjoyable piece of trash based on John Ridley's novel directed by Oliver Stone. Sean Penn (replacing Bill Paxton at the last minute) plays a degenerate gambler who is on his way to Vegas to pay off a debt when his car breaks down in a small Arizona town where he encounters some of the craziest and most insane people you can think from Billy Bob Thornton's hick inbreed mechanic, Jon Voight's nutty Indian, Joaquin Phoenix's wanna be tough guy, Claire Danes' 50's jailbait, Nick Nolte's greedy real estate developer and Jennifer Lopez's temptress in which he instantly gets caught in their web of lies, deceit and destruction. The film is easily one of Stone's most offbeat films after the seriousness of "Nixon" and "JFK" and for most, a forgettable film that is easily trumped by the great "Any Given Sunday" a few years later. This isn't a bad film by any means, it's well shot, well scored by the great Ennio Morricone (his isolated score is a bonus feature included here) and features some good performances by Penn, Thornton and Nolte.
The Bounty (*****) 1984/PG-13/2 Hours 13 Minutes/2:40.1 Aspect Ratio Sensational and engaging drama which is a remake of Mutany On The Bounty and originally intended to be two films. The film stars Oscar Winners Anthony Hopkins as Captain Bligh and Mel Gibson as Master Mate Fletcher Christian which revolves around the retelling of the book by Richard Hough where the two sail to the island of Tahiti under the order of the Queen of England under the tyranny of Bligh who begins to show his true nature taking out his anger of authority to Christian and the crew which includes 3 Time Oscar Winner Daniel Day Lewis and and Oscar nominee Liam Neeson. Tired of his mistreatment, Christian takes over the ship and the captaincy of the crew heading away to their own personal freedom. The film which is gorgeously shot and Directed by Roger Donaldson (Cocktail, The Recruit) features great performances all around as the film gets more and intense as it goes along to the moody and memorable score by Vangelis. A few excellent features are included including the much in demand score by Vangelis as a great feature.
Journey To The Center Of The Earth (****) 1959/G/2 Hours 9 Minutes/2:35.1 Aspect Ratio. This is a newly remastered 4K edition of Jules Verne's famous book about a group of disparate group of explorers, which includes an older professor (James Mason), one of his students (Pat Boone), the widow of a rival (Arlene Dahl), and a two faced schemer who is actually out to prevent the mission from succeeding (Thayer David), moves through a series of fantastic environments, encountering odd creatures and bizarre situations. One of Twentieth Century-Fox's most successful films of that era and of course inspired a remake and a sequel starring Brendan Fraser and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson respectively is a charming and ambitious sporting a fine Bernard Herrmann score which is featured as an isolated track here. This is a sparkling new edition of the film that looks superior to the original Twilight Time release that was marred with some slight picture imperfections which is completely eliminated for this release. All the special featured from the previous TT release have been ported over.
First Men In The Moon (***) 1964/NR/1 Hour 43 Minutes/2:35.1 Aspect Ratio Based on H.G.Welles famous story adapted by stop motion revolutionary Ray Harryhausen directed by Nathan Juran about what Welles thought the moon inhabited told by a man who claims to have been to the moon 65 years prior that was attacked by massive ant like creatures as a crew of United Nations astronauts prepare for a desperate mission to the moon. The film is a definitely in keeping with Harryhausen's revolutionary effects films of the decade and not a bad one at that. It is very entertaining for what it is and has fun with it's grandiose ideas. Special features including an isolated score track and two commentary tracks round out this package.
"Other odds and ends"
The Immigrant (**) Starz-Anchor Bay/2013/R/1 Hour 56 Minutes/2:35.1 Aspect Ratio Overlong and overbearing drama of a young immigrant woman (Oscar Winner Marion Cotillard, Public Enemies) who arrives in early 1900s New York along with her sick sister and is taken in by a bitter and jealous businessman (Joaquin Phoenix, Her) who offers her sanctuary only if she works as a prostitute. Desperate to see her sister, she turns to the brother (Oscar Nominee Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker) who is attracted to her for help.Revenge and bitter feelings abound in Writer/Director James Gray's overheated drama. This isn't anyone's best film by any means and the performances other than Cotillard's and Renner's which I liked (and I honestly wanted to see more of Renner) and are the only saving grace of the film. Phoenix is seriously overacting here and not at his best. They've been in better and I've seen better. A disappointment.
Wild Card (**) Lionsgate/2014/R/1 Hour 33 Minutes/2:40.1 Aspect Ratio This Simon West (Con Air, The Expendables 2) Directed thriller based on the book by William Goldman is a meandering mess featuring a solid cast featuring Jason Statham, Sofia Vergara, Michael Angarano, Hope Davis, and Stanley Tucci who are all wasted in this slow paced and convoluted thriller about a degenerate gambler played by Statham who provides protection as a bodyguard for unsavory types all over Las Vegas. The film is good looking and had potential to be a cult action classic with this cast, but it turns into a routine action-thriller that needed a better director and another cast to pull this off along with another hour to get the real gist of this story because it's too simplistic and not enough meat to get into.
Kidnapping Mr. Heineken (***) Alchemy/Millienium Films/2014/R/1 Hour 35 Minutes/2:40.1 Aspect Ratio Based on a real life incident in which took place in 1983 when a group of childhood friends including Jim Sturgess (21) and Sam Worthington (Man On A Ledge) planned, plotted and succeeding in kidnapping one of the richest men in the world who was the heir to the famous beer company played by Oscar Winner Anthony Hopkins. The result was the pay off one of the richest ransom demands in history for one person, but as all for nothing in the end. The film is slick, fast paced (at times, way too fast paced to really enjoy) and a fascinating story that really should've been streamlined a bit in terms of dramatic storytelling. The film is for all intents is a basic crime-drama without the drama. I like a lot of this film, but there should've been more moments with Hopkins' character and give him more of the backstory as to why these guys chose him as a target for their demands. It works for what it is and that is a mindless, fast paced action-thriller and nothing more.
The Voices (**1/2) Lionsgate/2014/R/1 Hour 43 Minutes/2:40.1 Aspect Ratio Audacious horror comedy starring Ryan Reynolds as Jerry, a happy go-lucky type of guy who has major jones for a sexy co-worker (Gemma Arterton, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters). But it turns out that good old Jerry hears voices stemming from everything or anyone he encounters including his pet cat and dog and a deer that begs to a mercy killing when he doesn't take his medication. After accidentally murdering his co-worker, he starts to grow more and more dilusional as the film goes along shifting from the present to the past. Reynolds is the perfect Mr.Rogers/Jeffery Dahmer type and is backed by a good cast including Pitch Perfect's Anna Kendrick. But it goes off the rails once it goes to a darker tone which to me is the film's fatal flaw.
"Picks Of The Month"
Gravity (*****) Warner Bros./2013/PG-13/1 Hour 31 Minutes/Aspect Ratio: 2:40.1 Brilliant, intense and unforgettable Oscar Winner starring Oscar Winners Sandra Bullock and George Clooney on a mission in Space when debris from a meteor cripples their space shuttle their only hope for survival is to reach an International Space Station near their shuttle. With debris dangerously circling them and their oxygen reaching a low point, they have a very short time to get to the station before they get sucked into the darkness of space. The film which was the Best Picture winner for 2013 is exactly what Interstellar should've been had it been edited it at the pace that Oscar Winner Alfonso Cuaron set this film at. It's lean, suspenseful and reaches a very satisfying climax. This Diamond Luxe Edition of the film features a unique version of the film without music and all sound effects and voices that is exclusive to this new 2 disc Blu-Ray set along with two other new features including "Sandra's Birthday Wish" and "Gravity: The Human Experience" along with all of the special features that were on the previous Blu-Ray edition.
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.
Well that's it for for this round. Stay tuned for the next round up for April. Till then Happy Easter and God bless!