Uncle Nick Blu-ray Review

  • Actor: Brian Posehn
  • Director: Chris Kasick
  • Format: Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Not Rated
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • Release Date: November 1, 2016
  • Run Time: 81 minutes




        Holiday movies about dysfunctional families and their behavior are almost as commonplace as the saccharine feel-good films of the season, but Uncle Nick takes it to a darker place than usual. It isn’t just the darkness, but how grounded in realism Uncle Nick is that makes it so depressingly bleak. I appreciate dark comedies, but this one has too few laughs for the dreariness that must be endured. Most Christmas films all end the same, with the family coming together and repairing damaged relationships in order to celebrate the season. While I commend Uncle Nick for avoiding the seasonal clichés, few films have left me with less of a desire to celebrate the holidays.

Taxi Driver: 40th Anniversary Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Cybill Shepherd, Harvey Keitel, Albert Brooks, Jodie Foster, Leonard Harris
  • Director: Martin Scorsese
  • Producers: Julia Phillips, Michael Phillips
  • Format: AC-3, Dolby, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: German, Portuguese, French, Czech, Polish, Finnish, Swedish, Korean, Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, Hungarian, Mandarin Chinese, Turkish, Spanish, Danish, Greek, English, Japanese
  • Dubbed: German, French, Czech, Portuguese, Italian, Hungarian, Spanish, Japanese
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    R
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: November 8, 2016
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: December 31, 2019
  • Run Time: 114 minutes


        Taxi Driver is a bold film, even by today’s standards. It was a timely film in 1976, both a character study of one mentally unstable man and a larger representation of the times. Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) represented an entire generation of men, war veterans and social outcasts alike. He is a man plagued by loneliness, but continually making decisions which push him further away from people. His politics are confused, but passionately driven by an undercurrent of violence within him. And as timely as Travis Bickle seemed in 1976, it feels every bit as relevant in today’s social and political climate, 40-years later.
       

Morris From America Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Craig Robinson, Markees Christmas
  • Director: Chad Hartigan
  • Format: NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    R
  • Studio: Lionsgate
  • Release Date: November 8, 2016
  • Run Time: 91 minutes





        Coming of age narratives are in wide supply within the film industry, and in that sense there is very little revolutionary about Morris from America despite its unique setting. What helps this films stand out from a plethora of others is the depiction of a father/son relationship. Even if that dynamic itself isn’t original, the warmth and honesty of the portrayal makes enough of a crowd pleaser to forgive some of script’s familiarity.

Better Call Saul: Season Two Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Bob Odenkirk
  • Format: AC-3, Dolby, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, Arabic, Dutch, Spanish, English
  • Dubbed: French
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: November 15, 2016
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: December 31, 2019
  • Run Time: 459 minutes




        The first season of “Better Call Saul” blew me away, in part because of the precise filmmaking used to tell the story, adding layers of nuance to an already clever set of scripts. But the main reason for my surprise in watching the first season was lowered expectations. Having watched and enjoyed all of “Breaking Bad,” it was difficult to imagine a show with less crime and a weaker protagonist would be as good. It turns out that it is even better, in some ways. “Breaking Bad” took several seasons for audiences to catch on and start watching, but “Better Call Saul” had record-breaking viewership and was renewed for a second season 7 months before even airing.

Indignation Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Sarah Gadon, Logan Lerman, Ben Rosenfield, Noah Robbins, Tracy Letts
  • Director: James Schamus
  • Format: NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    R
  • Studio: Lionsgate
  • Release Date: November 8, 2016
  • Run Time: 111 minutes




        Indignation has recognizable faces, but no movie stars. It is a period film, one without action or a typical romance to drive the narrative. There is humor as well as moments of melancholy, but the film doesn’t fit perfectly into either the comedy or the drama category. Even with the fairly traditional structure of a coming-of-age narrative, Indignation is something of an enigma in today’s film market, bold in its simplicity and reliance on good storytelling alone. Not every film needs a guaranteed audience brought by special effects and movie stars. My only hope is that enough people watched this movie to encourage further production of mature narratives as an alternative to the constant stream of comic book movies.

The Sea of Trees Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Matthew McConaughey, Naomi Watts, Ken Watanabe, Katie Aselton
  • Director: Gus Van Sant
  • Format: NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    PG-13
  • Studio: Lionsgate
  • Release Date: November 1, 2016
  • Run Time: 110 minutes




        There wasn’t a single twist in the narrative of The Sea of Trees that I didn’t see coming long before they arrived, but I still would have allowed myself to be swept up by the clichés in the grief-filled story. The intermixing of supernatural with emotion-filled melodrama did not even bother me, at least not until it became forcefully manipulative. It is one thing to use sadness to evoke emotions from the audience, but the way it is done in The Sea of Trees often feels sadistically manipulative, regardless of how authentic the performances may be. The emotions are not earned so much as thrust upon the audience, which is unfortunate considering the dedication and skill of the cast involved.

The IT Crowd: The Complete Series DVD Review

  • Actors: Chris O'Dowd, Richard Ayoade, Katherine Parkinson
  • Director: Graham Linehan
  • Format: Box set, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 5
  • Rated: Not Rated
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • DVD Release Date: November 1, 2016
  • Run Time: 617 minutes




        Many great film careers have started with a successful television show, but it is rare for one show to launch several careers. These are the shows that become lasting classics, which can be watched countless times, in part because of how much the cast embodies their roles: “Freaks and Geeks,” “Friends,” “Cheers.” “The IT Crowd” belongs in this category, perhaps even more so than its American counterparts. Television in the UK is such a dominate art form that it is not seen as the stepping stone it is in Hollywood, so a success in this medium almost guarantees a thriving career.

Legend of Bruce Lee: Volume One DVD Review

  • Actors: Danny Chan, Michelle Lang, Mark Dacascos
  • Director: Li Wenqi
  • Format: Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, THX, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated:
    Unrated
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Well Go USA
  • DVD Release Date: November 1, 2016
  • Run Time: 451 minutes




        A love of Chinese cinema may mislead some English-speaking consumers to make incorrect assumptions about the DVD release of “Legend of Bruce Lee.” The first mistaken assumption is that this release is the same quality of the films that are exported from the country. “Legend of Bruce Lee” is a television miniseries, not a film, and it won’t take long to discover that the Chinese television industry is nowhere near as polished. Even this may have been easier to dismiss, if the presentation on the Region 1 DVD release weren’t also horribly dubbed as the only option for sound. Though there are subtitles available, the original language track is shamefully missing.

Amazonia DVD Review

  • Actors: Martin Sheen
  • Director: Thierry Ragobert
  • Disc Format: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    G
  • Studio: Lionsgate
  • DVD Release Date: October 4, 2016
  • Run Time: 93 minutes




        Amazonia is a strange amalgamation of scripted narrative film and nature documentary, which seems unconventional by today’s standards despite a tradition of these type of films from Disney in the past. Though the facts about nature are accurate and informative, we follow a single narrative involving a monkey which has clearly been fabricated as the vehicle for the delivery of educational information. Though there may be some who will prefer the realism of actual nature documentary material, Amazonia is perfect for younger audiences unaccustomed to the more unpredictable elements of nature. This G-rated film provide educational information within the safety of a sanitized script.

Men & Chicken Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Mads Mikkelsen, David Dencik, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Søren Malling, Nicolas Bro
  • Format: NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    Unrated
  • Studio: Drafthouse
  • Release Date: October 25, 2016
  • Run Time: 99 minutes




        As a screenwriter, Anders Thomas Jensen has provided some of the strongest material for a few very serious-minded Danish filmmakers, which quite ironic considering the tone of the films which he seems to prefer making as a director. Although it has been 10 years since his last project as director, Jensen hasn’t missed a beat. Men & Chicken would make a perfect companion piece to Adam’s Apples (2005), not to mention the darkly comic similarities The Green Butchers (2003).

Skiptrace Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Jackie Chan, Johnny Knoxville, Bingbing Fan, Eve Torres, Eric Tsang
  • Director: Renny Harlin
  • Format: NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    PG-13
  • Studio: Lionsgate
  • Release Date: October 25, 2016
  • Run Time: 98 minutes




        Skiptrace feels like a movie made 15 years ago, and in many ways I mean that as a compliment. There is also a valid reason for the feeling of nostalgia brought on by this film, as it rejoins star Jackie Chan with director Renny Harlin, who were originally in the process of planning a film to take place on the World Trade Center when the attacks of 9/11 occurred. That film was understandably scrapped, and Chan went on to make The Tuxedo instead, which was the beginning of Chan’s shift from the physical comedy of his own stunt work to a reliance on CGI to make up for the growing limitations of his age. But despite being made a decade and a half after The Tuxedo, Skiptrace feels like a return to the signature Jackie Chan style.

Nerve Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Emma Roberts, Dave Franco, Juliette Lewis, Emily Meade, Miles Heizer
  • Directors: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
  • Format: Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    PG-13
  • Studio: Lionsgate
  • Release Date: October 25, 2016
  • Run Time: 96 minutes




        Nerve boasts an original idea with relevant modern commentary on the digital age and an over-reliance on social media for feelings of self worth, though it often feels like a creative concept destroyed by poorly drawn characters and increasingly idiotic plot twists. Individual traits only seem to exist in order for each character to shift the narrative where it needs to be, altered at the drop of a hat without consideration of consistency. The story manipulates everything in Nerve, including the audience. Rather than intelligently applying its themes, directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman merely cram them into a typical action movie formula.
       

Gleason DVD Review

  • Cast: Steve Gleason
  • Director: Clay Tweel
  • Format: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    R
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: November 1, 2016
  • Run Time: 111 minutes


        If Gleason were a scripted narrative film, it would likely come off as contrived. And yet, the intimacy that the camera is often able to achieve far surpasses the typical level of realism found even in the documentary format. This is exactly the type of complexity through contrast found within many elements of director Clay Tweed’s film. This is a film with brutally raw language, but amidst the casual use of the “F” word is an honest discussion about faith that would benefit even the most conservative of Christians. Gleason is a devastating front-row seat to the effects of a disease which destroys the physical body, while serving as an uplifting testament to the soul of the man within.   

Sherpa DVD Review

  • Director: Jennifer Peedom
  • Disc Format: Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    PG
  • Studio: LIONSGATE
  • Release Date: October 11, 2016
  • Run Time: 93 minutes





        Sometimes the difference between making a good documentary and a great one is just the simple luck of being at the right place at the right time. If I had to guess, I would assume that director Jennifer Peedom set out to make Sherpa as a film about the record-breaking climb of Everest by one of the local guides. Had he completed the summit during the 2014 expedition, Sirdar Phurba Tashi Sherpa would have beaten the record for the number of times a single person has reached the top of the infamous mountain. While that may have been the original intentions of Peedom’s film, it quickly became about something else as a tragic avalanche occurred during the 2014 expedition, taking the lives of a record number of Sherpa guides in one afternoon.

Hell on Wheels: Season 5, Volume 2 Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Colm Meaney, Phil Burke, Anson Mount, Common
  • Producers: Chad Oakes, Michael Frislev
  • Format: Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: November 1, 2016
  • Run Time: 301 minutes



        There are two ways to approach the review of the second volume of the fifth and final season of “Hell on Wheels.” I could review the content itself, which would be nothing but high praise for the emotional resonance of these final episodes. Unfortunately, the release plan for the last season has not been nearly as admirable as the content. Rather than waiting to release the entire final season together, they split it up into two separate packages with only 7 episodes in each. Considering the cost of each release, it is difficult not to see this as a direct insult to the fans.

The Hunger Games Ultra HD 4K Review

  • Actors: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks
  • Director: Gary Ross
  • Disc Format: 4K, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    PG-13
  • Studio: Lionsgate
  • Release Date: November 8, 2016
  • Run Time: 111 minutes



        Certain films will lend themselves to the viewing enhancements brought by 4K better than others. Animation will always see the most noticeable upgrading, because of the technology used to create these films, and this is also why large budget action films with computer generated effects also appear improved. While the first film in The Hunger Games franchise had a noticeably smaller budget, all of the films benefit from this new format.

Len & Company DVD Review

  • Actors: Rhys Ifans, Juno Temple
  • Director: Tim Godsall
  • Format: Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: Spanish
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Unrated 
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • DVD Release Date: October 11, 2016
  • Run Time: 100 minutes




        There are several tired formulas in Len & Company, all swimming around the same film like a cesspool of indi-filmmaking clichés. There is absolutely no reason any of it should work on paper, but somehow manages to obtain a level of sincerity through casting. The actors embody the roles so wholly that it makes the lack of narrative within the film an asset rather than a flaw, and the dedication from the cast makes Len & Company an enjoyable, albeit familiar, ride.

Feed the Beast: Season One DVD Review

  • Actors: David Schimmer, Jim Sturgess, Michael Gladis, Lorenza Izzo, John Doman
  • Directors: Daniel Attias, Jon S. Baird, Dennie Gordon, Steve Shill
  • Format: Box set, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Studio: Lionsgate
  • DVD Release Date: October 11, 2016
  • Run Time: 377 minutes





        After only one season, “Feed the Beast” was cancelled, proving that not every show on AMC is a winner. Based on a Danish series about a couple of friends opening a restaurant, much must have been lost in translation along the way. Rather than focusing on the food, “Feed the Beast” throws every cliché at the audience, devolving into more of a crime show than one about cooking or the business of selling food. And when criminal activity doesn’t dominate the narrative, bad relationship melodrama takes over.

Les Cowboys Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Finnegan Oldfield, Agathe Dronne, Ellora Torchia, Antoine Chappey, François Damiens
  • Director: Thomas Bidegain
  • Producer: Alain Attal
  • Format: AC-3, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    R
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: October 11, 2016
  • Run Time: 105 minutes




        I can usually anticipate how I am going to feel about a movie after the first twenty-minutes. Most films follows such predictable structures that few surprises are found beyond the establishing act, but Les Cowboys had my head spinning with its unconventional approach to storytelling. The result was a viewing experience that was often disorientating, though ultimately rewarding. The definitive question remains though; did I enjoy the film in spite of the convoluted narrative, or because of it?

Diary of a Chambermaid Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Léa Seydoux, Vincent Lindon, Clotilde Mollet, Herve Pierre, Mélodie Valemberg
  • Director: Benoit Jacquot
  • Producer: Jean-Pierre Guérin
  • Format: AC-3, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: October 4, 2016
  • Run Time: 96 minutes




        This is the third time that Octave Mirbeau’s novel has been adapted to the screen, and the casting of Léa Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Color) seemed fitting for a movie delving into the sexual fetishism of a French chambermaid during the turn of the century. And while Seydoux certainly gives a performance every bit as captivating as others before, having seen her recently in far more shocking films makes this film appear sanitized by comparison. This is not helped by filmmaker Benoît Jacquot’s decision to veer away from the edgy elements in the storyline popularized by previous versions.