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The July/August Movie Blu-Ray and DVD Review Round Up

Updated on August 7, 2015

Up This Month

This is one big round of reviews and latest releases that have come out late last month and into this month which features alot of interesting titles to boot!

  • Get Hard (***) Warner Bros./R, 1 Hour 40 Minutes Theatrical Version/Unrated, 1 Hour 47 Minutes Extended Version/1:85.1 Aspect Ratio Not the greatest Will Ferrell comedy on the planet but this is hit and miss comedy that when the jokes hit, they hit the target very well. Paired off with the streaking hot Kevin Hart, Ferrell plays a wealthy executive who's happily engaged to his bosses (Craig T.Nelson, Coach) daughter (Community's Alison Brie) and living la dolche vida when he's caught in a finance scam and sentenced to go to prison for ten years. Ferrell comes up with the ludicrous idea of having a supposed ex-con played by Hart to teach him how to survive in prison. Funny and outlandish gags ensue soon after that work because of the chemistry between Ferrell and Hart or just simply wear out their welcome. The unrated version is the most recommended here.
  • The Gunman (***) Universal/R/1 Hour 55 Minutes/2:40.1 Aspect Ratio Overlong, but entertaining action-thriller starring Sean Penn (who also co-wrote and co-produced) as former assassin who is brought out of his own personal seclusion when he becomes the target of a sinister group which includes his former employers who were apart of a coup in South Africa years ago. Penn finds himself on the run with a serious mental condition which he tries to battle along with all sorts of different assassins taking out his associates as he tries to piece together the reasons behind his personal bullseye. The film directed by Taken 2 and From Paris With Love's Pierre Morel is not as stylish or as energetic as those films are, but there is a story here and Penn is really good as a tired, strung out former agent and is surprisingly likeable here.
  • Maggie (**1/2) Lionsgate/PG-13/1 Hour 35 Minutes/1:85.1 Aspect Ratio Thoughtful, but slow and dramatic version of a zombie apocalypse in which Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a strong and loving father of his daughter played exceptionally well by Abigail Breslin, who's been infected with a zombie enducing virus that has ravaged the country. Refusing to take her to the quarantine zone, he decides to be with her through her transtition until she ultimately succumbs to the disease. The film is well acted and has its' heart in the right place, but if it was directed by another director, it would've had a little more sense of urgency and showed more of the victims and their own personal plight which is briefly touched upon here.
  • Danny Collins (****) Universal/R/1 Hour 48 MInutes/2:40.1 Aspect Ratio Definitely one of the years' most pleasant surprises and features one of Al Pacino's best performances in ages! Pacino plays an aging singer Danny Collins much like Neil Diamond who his birthday gets a surprise gift from his agent (the brilliant Christopher Plummer) which was a letter from John Lennon himself. Trying to distance himself from his current drug and swinger lifestyle, he heads to New Jersey to reconnect with his son (Bobby Cannavale) with a pregnant wife (Jennifer Garner) and a young daughter and meets a spunky hotel manager (Annette Bening, in an excellent performance) and starts to fall in love himself. The film which deserved alot more promotion and publicity than it got is a major gem for Pacino and a great ensemble really soars in this film. Highly recommended.
  • Barely Lethal (***) Lionsgate/PG-13/1 Hour 39 Minutes/1:85.1 Aspect Ratio Surprisingly, fun time waster starring the lovely Oscar nominee Hailee Steinfeld (of True Grit and Begin Again) as a young teen code name 84, who's spending her years being trained as an assassin by Samuel L.Jackson in a special facility for young teens who is sent on a mission to capture the very first assassin gone rogue (Jessica Alba). After capturing her, 84 decides to escape and try to live a normal life of a teenage girl by positing a foreign exchange student from Canada named Megan who is taken in by a too friendly mom (Rachel Harris) and her teen daughter and young son. She stars to fall for a geek (Thomas Mann of Project X) and is having a blast during her high school days when she becomes the target of Alba and has to stop her plans. The film is not perfect but there is alot of energy and fun to keep it afloat by the able direction of Kyle Newman. Definitely worth it for Steinfeld, who just keeps getting better and better.


Twilight Time

  • The World Of Henry Orient (***) Twilight Time/NR/1 Hour 46 Minutes/2:35.1 Aspect Ratio Jubilant and often outlandish comedy about a terrible pianist played by the late Peter Sellers, (in a fine performance) who is followed around New York by two young girls (Merrie Spaeth and Tippy Walker) who practically ruin his chances with his beautiful would be girlfriend (Paula Prentiss) and begin to fantasize about him while they go through their own personal maturations throughout the film. The film works mostly because of the film is seen through the eyes of the two young girls and Sellers is definitely not to be shortchanged either here in a year where he gave performances in Dr.Strangelove and A Shot In The Dark. Worth recommending.
  • The Best of Everything (****) Twilight Time/NR/2 Hours 1 Minute/2:35.1 Aspect Ratio Considered to be an inspiration for the hit series Mad Men based on the novel by Rona Jaffe taking place during the 1950's about the personal behind the scenes that includes office romance, heartbreak and other drama at a major New York publishing house named Fabian publishers featuring an all-star cast featuring Joan Crawford, Hope Lange and Diane Baker amongst others and wonderful visuals and a classy elegant score by the late Alfred Newman. The film is a true definition of the word pot boiler.
  • A Month In The Country (***) Twilight Time/PG/1987/1 Hour 37 MInutes/1:85.1 Aspect Ratio. A charming and dramatic film stars Kenneth Branagh (in his debut) and future Oscar Winner Colin Firth in a film about a pair of traumatized former World War I soldiers and best friends who flee to the English countryside and find solace and peace working to restore an old Church mural. They also unearth lost treasure and soon yearn for love through temptation as the young bride (Natasha Richardson) of a vicar comes calling. Wonderfully shot and nicely acted by future superstars Branagh and Firth makes for a nice character study.

For the Kids (Or Maybe Not)

  • Scooby Doo! and KISS: Rock and Roll Mystery (**) Warner Bros./2015/1 Hour 19 MInutes This is the latest animated mystery involving the popular characters from the Scooby Do franchise has them solving a mystery at the newly minted KISS-land and of course, meet up with the famous rock group (who's voices are featured here) to stop the evil Crimson Witch who has return to haunt the group, but also summon "The Destroyer" from an alternate dimension to literally destroy the planet. Definitely not one of the better Scooby Doo efforts to be honest and it's also on the borderline of being for older kids than younger ones, so I would suggest you consult your personal intutions with this one.
  • Justice League: Gods And Monsters (***) Warner Bros./2015/1 Hour 17 Minutes A very dark and rather unique version of our favorite superheroes that takes place in an alternate universe where Batman is a full fledged vampire, Wonder Woman is a tough as nails Princess Bekka and Superman is the son of General Zod sporting a goatee. All of the Justice League heroes have disappeared and bad guys are now good guys and vice versa all around. Much better than their last effort in Animal Instincts which was a major disappointment, this one is miles better but still not great however. A good recovery for the series.

Odds, Ends and Plenty of Everything Else!

  • Awaken (***) Arc Entertainment/R/90 Minutes Slick little action thriller featuring Jason London, Robert Davi, Daryl Hannah and the always reliable Vinnie Jones in a star making vehicle for Natalie Burn which revolves around a group of people abducted and taken to an island where London is looking for organ donors to save Hannah's daughter from dying. A good time killer surprisingly.
  • Absolution (*) Lionsgate/R/90 Minutes Yet another terrible action film starring the once great Steven Seagal again with Vinnie Jones with Seagal playing an ex-Special Forces elite solider who returns to work for his boss, an Afghan drug lord and then discovers a link between him and a sex trafficking ring after rescuing young woman. He soon goes on the run with her as her protector of sorts while trying to find a way for them to stay alive. i think I pretty much gave away lot of the plot, so it doesn't matter how the end result is because good old Steven saves the day.
  • The Tall Blond Man With One Black Shoe (**) Film Movement/PG/1 Hour 30 Minutes. This is the French film that would later be remade as The Man With One Red Shoe starring Oscar Winner Tom Hanks in 1985. The film centers around an orchestra musician who becomes the pawn in a battle between dueling French secret service factions (the CIA in the remake). While the guy is being tailed and eventually seduced by one of the faction's beautiful spy, a very horny wife of his own best friend has plans of his own for him. The film isn't that good, I think the Hanks version despite all of its' flaws, is better in everyway. This is pretty much a kickstarter for remakes here in the US and not all of them great.
  • Welcome To New York (***) MPI/R/1 Hour 48 Minutes Solid performances lead this Abel Ferrara thriller starring Oscar Winner Gerard Depardieu which is based on a shocking true story about a sex addicted businessman who comes to New York on business and has a drug and alcohol fueled evening at a ritzy hotel when an incident involving one of the hotel's maids surfaces and is soon arrested for his possible involvement in the crime. The film is gritty and a tough look at a real life crime with Ferrara's always stylish visuals and in your face direction.
  • 71' (***) Lionsgate/R/1 Hour 40 Minutes Intense and dramatic film starring Unbroken's Jack O'Connell about a young Irish soldier who is sent through the streets of Belfast during the country's civil unrest in 1971. The film is stylish and O'Connell's performance is the film which is tough and sympathic to everything around him. A solid film.
  • Echoes of War (**) Arc Entertainment/R/1 Hour 40 MInutes A lame and violent rip off of the Hatfield's and McCoy's feud that isn't as memorable or even in the same league that takes place after the Civil War between two warring families in the tranquil side of the Texas countryside. The only good thing is that William Forthsythe is in this otherwise you're better off seeing the mini-series with Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton for better results.
  • Tooken (*) Cinedigm/R/1 Hour 21 MInutes Aweful, cameo filled film directed by the infamous John Mallory Asher (former Mr. Jenny McCarthy, who not surprisingly makes a cameo in this mess). The film revolves around a wimpy security guard (OZ.'s Lee Tergesen) who happens to be a former CIA expert with his mom who has things in his life disappear around him and finds the the culprit behind this mystery is a villain named Brownfinger (Margaret Cho) who is threatening to blow up a pound full of puppies. Just stick with watching the Taken trilogy you'll live longer.
  • Inner Demons (**) IFC Midnight/R/1 Hour 23 Minutes. Slick, but disappointing thriller which involves a young woman who has a heroin addiction and is given an intervention by a group of reality show hawkers. When it turns out that the woman is actually possessed by a spirit thanks to a prank by one of her former friends and classmates that has caused her change in personality and a homicide rage. The film works for two thirds of it and beautiful actress playing the girl is wonderful and easily the best thing about the film, but the rest of the cast is just dreadful and the ending is just worthless. A shame.
  • Burying The Ex (**) Image Entertainment/R/1 Hour 29 Minutes Not a bad film and not a great film from the career of the always terrific Joe Dante. The film stars Anton Yelchin as a good guy named Max with a shitty girlfriend in Evelyn (Ashley Greene) who just simply refuses to accept that they're broken up and is given a major repreve when she kicks the bucket or so he thinks. Soon Max meets another woman named Olivia (Alexandra Daddaro), who happens to like and enjoy his company things turn for the worse when Evelyn returns from the dead to be by his side for better or worse. Dark humor has always been Dante's specialty but this one just doesn't work despite the appealing actors, but the script feels like a retread of a 1990's film called my "My Boyfriend's Back". Yikes!
  • Any Day (***) Starz!/Anchor Bay/R/1 Hour 40 Minutes Well meaning and engaging drama written and directed by actor Rustam Brannaman starring Sean Bean as a former criminal fighting to get his life together after being released from jail with hope and confidence as he engages in a relationship with Eva Longoria and soon has to battle his past demons to fully feel free. Solid all the way around.
  • A La Mala (Falling For Mala) (**) Lionsgate/PG-13/1 Hour 46 Minutes
    A Latin version of the Will Smith film, Hitch and just the opposite in which a woman named Mala, an aspiring actress is hired by her best friend to test their relationship which leads to a more lucrative career doing this until she starts to fall for one of her hired targets. Not a bad film, but there have been better ones of this type.
  • Brother's Keeper (**) Alchemy/PG-13/1 Hour 58 Minutes A misfire of a story involving a pair of twin brothers, one a straight arrow who wants to marry his girlfriend and live a happy life as a priest and the other the town rebel have their future destroyed when one of them is framed for a murder they didn't commit by the town's powerful family. More of a Lifetime movie with a pulse than anything else.
  • I Am Big Bird: The Carol Spinney Story (***) Cinedigm/NR/1 Hour 27 Minutes Nice and charming documentary of the man inside the famous Seasame Street television series character who to this very day is going on strong wearing the costume and staying in character the ripe age of 80 years old. The film covers his career and his personal life when he's not wearing the famous alter ego.
  • The Love Letter (**) Alchemy/PG-13/1 Hour 28 Minutes Not to be confused with the superior 1999 film starring Tom Selleck and Kate Capshaw. The film stars Keisha Knight-Pullium and Romeo Miller as best friends' who essentially know everything about each other. When Pullium writes a letter of advice to her own advice column, it explodes into something bigger than she could've ever imagined leading her to examine her life. Another example of a full length Lifetime or Hallmark movie material which isn't bad, but not memorable either.
  • Debbie Macomers' Cedar Cove Season 2 Cinedigm/3 DVD's/588 Minutes A Welcomed return to the hit show on the Hallmark Channel featuring the lovely Andie MacDowell as Judge Olivia Lockhart in the small tranquil town of Cedar Cove, Washington as she struggles to balance everything in her life from her family to her career and also be the town's role model of hope.
  • The Affair Season One Showtime/Paramount/4 Discs/ 620 Minutes Hit series starring Dominic West and Ruth Wilson who tell the story of their relationship from a He Said/She Said perspective which is very creative and unique. Joshua Jackson also co-stars.


Picks of the Month

  • The Fabulous Baker Boys (****) Twilight Time/R/1 Hour 54 Minutes Brilliant and well acted and directed film starring Oscar Winner Jeff Bridges and his real brother, Beau Bridges (Oscar nominated for this film) as a pair of brothers Jack and Frank Baker who are a lounge act in Seattle that is going nowhere and getting paid not to play anymore. When Michelle Pfeiffer's Suzy Diamond shows up their world is turned upside down for the better and worse. Jack longs for a life of playing real jazz, while Frank desperately tries to keep everything going and Suzy falls for Jack causing a rift between the trio. The film was a hit and also an Oscar nominated darling in 1989 for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Score, Leading Actor and Supporting Actor and Actress. A wonderful film that deserves all the special treatment it gets here.
  • Places In The Heart (****) Twilight Time/PG/1 Hour 51 Minutes Wonderful film that earned Sally Field a second Oscar win as a recently widowed mother of two young children who with the help of Moses (Oscar Nominee Danny Glover) and the blind Mr. Will (Oscar Nominee John Malkovich) finds a way to keep her home and her farm by harvesting cotton and battling everything from a devasting tornado, racism and pain in rural Texas. The film written and directed by Robert Benton is a wonderful film that features really stellar acting and Field has never been better here along with Glover who turns in a practice run performance for The Color Purple a year later. An often over looked film, but one that does resonate with those who watch it.
  • Real Men (***) Kino Lorber/PG-13/1 Hour 25 Minutes Goofy, and often entertaining comedy starring Jim Belushi as a super agent of the CIA named Nick who is recruited to guide a whimpy regular suburban dad Bob (John Ritter) to take the place of a dead agent that looks like him to make a very important rendevousz with an alien race (yes, an alien race) that has the CIA divided in their package offers (one for war, one for peace). The film written and directed by Species auteur Dennis Feldman was lambasted by many but it has it's own quirky charms and for what it is, it really does work than alot of comedies nowadays. Belushi and Ritter do make a good comic team and the film features an equally gleefully fun and charming score by the late Miles Goodman.

So that'll do it for this portion of the month. The next will feature the latest including Insurgent and many others! So for now, the balcony is closed.

© 2015 DANNY GONZALEZ

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