Learning to Drive DVD Review

     Actors: Ben Kingsley, Patricia Clarkson, Grace Gummer
  • Director: Isabel Coixet
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Dubbed: Spanish
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: Broad Green Pictures
  • DVD Release Date: January 19, 2016
  • Run Time: 90 minutes

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            Learning to Drive has a familiar set-up, and it doesn’t take long to figure out where the story is heading. It takes remarkably longer for the film to actually get there, stumbling down the well-worn narrative path, easily distracted by unnecessary and redundant sequences. Boiled down to its essence, Learning to Drive is little more than a short film which has been bloated by repeated sequences pounding the transparent metaphor of the title into audiences’ brains. It is a mild and innocuous; not so much bad as it is bland and forgettable, despite the best efforts from its stars.  

     

    The New Girlfriend Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Romain Duris, Anais Demoustier, Raphael Personnaz
  • Director: Francois Ozon
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Cohen Media Group
  • Release Date: January 26, 2016
  • Run Time: 108 minutes


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            The way that The New Girlfriend speeds through the film’s exposition with a cleverly stylistic and dialogue-free opening sequence, I was certain that filmmaker François Ozon (The Swimming Pool, 8 Women) was rushing in a specific direction. Instead, The New Girlfriend wanders aimlessly throughout a number of different tones and ideas, never committing to any one direction enough to fully deliver. Moments of the narrative seem to have the social sensitivity and relevance of a movie like The Danish Girl, though the peculiarities of sexuality are nearly turned into tools of ominous suspense and mystery, all wrapped up in a series of scenes that awkwardly shift tones between comedy and melodrama.

     

    Inside Llewyn Davis Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, T Bone Burnett
  • Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, DTS Surround Sound, Restored, Special Edition, Subtitled, Surround Sound, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: Criterion Collection (Direct)
  • Release Date: January 19, 2016
  • Run Time: 104 minutes

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            Every frame of Inside Llewyn Davis is a near miracle in visual storytelling, matched by the Coen Brothers’ signature subtext-filled witty narrative. It is implanted with a whimsical style of humor that only Joel and Ethan could accomplish in a film about the bleak cyclical existence of a struggling artist. Harsh realities about the music industry and real-world references are miraculously blended with touches of surrealism and clever parallels to classic literature. Inside Llewyn Davis has a deceptively simplistic storyline, but the actual filmmaking is richly layered with meaning and subtext, providing hours of introspection and analysis beyond the 104-minute running-time.  

     

    Everest Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Josh Brolin, Keira Knightley, Jake Gyllenhaal, Robin Wright, Jason Clarke
  • Director: Baltasar Kormakur
  • Format: Color, Widescreen, 3D, Blu-ray, Digital_copy
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby TrueHD), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish, English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated: PG-13 
  • Studio: Universal
  • DVD Release Date: January 19, 2016
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: May 2, 2016




  •         As I watched Everest, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had previously watched a documentary about the tragic events depicted in the film. The particular elements and difficulties leading to fatalities all felt familiar, but I think that has more to do with the similarity between separate events, like the ones also depicted in The Summit. This was the film I was thinking of, and though it took place in a different decade and on a different mountain, there are a remarkable number of things that remain the same. This seems to show that no amount of time diminishes the height of some peaks, but it also provides some narrative difficulty.

     

    Sinister 2 Blu-ray Review

         Directors: Ciaran Foy
  • Format: Digital_copy
  • Language: English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1)
  • Subtitles: Spanish
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: Universal Studios
  • Release Date: January 12, 2016
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: May 2, 2016
  • Run Time: 98 minutes

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            The beginning of Sinister 2 felt like a Hollywood remake of Goodnight Mommy, before quickly devolving into a typical sequel to the generic 2012 supernatural horror film. The villain in this series is an evil spirit called Baghuul, which is essentially just a mix between the boogeyman and whatever the angry spirits in The Ring franchise are. When viewers of old family videos, which turn into found-footage snuff films (Saw meets Paranormal Activity), Baghuul appears and possesses one of the family children to kill the rest of the family. They also record the murders for their own film to continue the cycle. The sequel continues this storyline while also attempting to pay homage to Stephen King’s Children of the Corn. And perhaps this is the problem; in my first paragraph attempting to describe Sinister 2, I have already mentioned five other horror franchises.

     

    Deathgasm Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Milo Cawthorne, James Blake, Kimberley Crossman, Sam Berkley
  • Director: Jason Lei Howden
  • Format: Blu-ray, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Dark Sky Films
  • Release Date: January 5, 2016
  • Run Time: 86 minutes


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            If you had no knowledge of heavy metal music prior to watching Deathgasm, you might assume that it is all demon-obsession and the raging of sophomoric teenage hormones from this blood-soaked horror comedy. The concept is far from original, with only a small shift in the music choices of the main characters. In fact, the outcasts fighting demons caused by their interest/hobby is a narrative which has been used before, including Knights of Badassdom taking a similar approach with the use of live action role playing or boy scouts in Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. Appreciation of metal music is not necessarily required for enjoyment of Deathgasm, because it is secondary to the use of generic horror elements.

           

    Flesh and Bone Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Sarah Hay, Sascha Radetsky, Ethan Stiefel, Emily Tyra
  • Format: Anamorphic, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: NR
  • Studio: ANCHOR BAY
  • Release Date: January 5, 2016
  • Run Time: 482 minutes


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            First, let me start by saying that I became easily addicted to “Flesh and Bone,” despite my initial reservations and various complaints with the overall product. Even when I found myself irritated by story decisions made, it had little to no effect on my desire to continue watching, suggesting that they were doing something right. I will even say that “Flesh and Bone” has increased by appreciation of ballet, though not as much as my desire to see this world of professional dancing portrayed on film or television without the inclusion of sexual deviance. First it was mental instability and masturbation-laden Black Swan and now we are given the strip clubs and incest of “Flesh and Bone.” And if this is your only knowledge of ballet, you would have to assume all of the directors use their power to sexually harass their ambitious company members.

     

    Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Mark McGrath, Dennis Miller, Patrick Warburton, David Spade, Brittany Daniel
  • Director: Fred Wolf
  • Producers: David Spade, Fred Wolf, Doug Robinson, Amy Kim, Adam Sandler
  • Format: AC-3, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, Portuguese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Indonesian, Thai, Spanish, English
  • Dubbed: French, Portuguese, Thai, Spanish
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: January 5, 2016
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: December 31, 2019
  • Run Time: 109 minutes


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            For all of the grief that Adam Sandler receives for the films he stars in, 2015 was a fairly decent year for the actor. The sequel to the 2012 animated film, Hotel Transylvania 2, broke records at the box office for Sony and Sandler, becoming the highest opening weekend of the actor’s career. And while both Pixels and Ridiculous 6 were overwhelmingly deemed failures by critics, even these have bombs have silver linings. While Pixels did not make what was anticipated, it isn’t nearly as large of a financial upset as every other Sandler live action released in recent years. And regardless of how terrible the experts may agree that Ridiculous 6 is, it has still managed to become the most streamed film within the first 30 days of being released on Netflix.

     

    Memories of the Sword Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Lee Byung-hun, Jeon Do-yeon, Kim Go-eun
  • Director: Park Heung-sik
  • Format: Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, THX, Widescreen
  • Language: Korean
  • Subtitles: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Well Go USA
  • Release Date: January 5, 2016
  • Run Time: 121 minutes


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            Martial arts films tend to contain many of the same narratives, simply retold with different characters and choreography, not unlike the genre’s gun-slinging Western counterpart. This can work as a double-edged sword for these films, providing familiarity and common themes for audiences to latch onto while also running the risk of blending in with countless others of the same nature. Memories of the Sword certainly has all of the familiar elements of a martial arts classic; a betrayal that must be avenged, a corrupt leader, and a young protégé trained to defeat injustice. Unfortunately, little amidst this familiarity is original enough to stand out, and the viewing experience itself is a bit too disjointed to provide the escapism of entertainment.

     

    The Walk 3D Blu-ray Review

    Actors: Benedict Samuel, Ben Schwartz, Ben Kingsley, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Clément Sibony
  • Director: Robert Zemeckis
  • Producers: Robert Zemeckis, Steve Starkey, Jack Rapke
  • Format: NTSC, Subtitled, 3D, Ultraviolet
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, Portuguese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Indonesian, Cantonese, Thai, Spanish, English
  • Dubbed: French, Portuguese, Thai, Spanish
  • Audio Description: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: PG
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: January 5, 2016
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: December 31, 2019


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            The Walk is among the few films released in 3D where the format has been utilized in a way that is essential to the viewing experience. The final high-wire walk in the most obvious example of this, bringing audiences to the precipice between the Twin Towers in the same manner that Gravity transported viewers into space, but The Walk has much more than this climactic sequence to offer in both 2D and 3D. Despite being about 15-minutes too long in the middle section, Robert Zemeckis has created an energetic and spectacle-filled film, from the fast-paced beginning on the streets of Paris to the thrilling finale over the landscape of Manhattan.       

     

    The Green Inferno Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Daryl Sabara, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Sky Ferreira
  • Format: Widescreen
  • Language: English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1)
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish, English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: Universal
  • Release Date: January 5, 2016
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: May 2, 2016
  • Run Time: 101 minutes


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            Eli Roth as a filmmaker is like Quentin Tarantino without the intelligence or finesse. All that remains are references to grindhouse films of the 1970s and ‘80s, which are often too similar to the original to be enjoyed as little more than homage. With The Green Inferno, Roth tackled the disturbing sub-genre of horror involving native cannibals in the rainforests. The original films he has clearly been influenced by include Ruggero Deodato’s “Cannibal Trilogy,” the second of which was originally titled ‘The Green Inferno’ before switching to Cannibal Holocaust.

     

    The Visit Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Ed Oxenbould, Deanna dunagan, Peter McRobbie, Kathryn Hahn, Olivia DeJonge
  • Director: M. Night Shyamalan
  • Format: Color, Widescreen, Digital_copy
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish, English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Studio: Universal Studios
  • Release Date: January 5, 2016
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: May 2, 2016



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            M. Night Shyamalan self produced The Visit so that he would have complete creative control, implying that his long string of failures had been due to studio meddling. So here is The Visit, presented as the filmmaker intended and allowing the audience to see his true artistic vision, and I’m still not impressed. Although Shyamalan proves that he is able to shed the self-seriousness for a bit of playful genre filmmaking, his abilities as a director are still vastly overwhelmed by his inability to write a deserving screenplay in over a decade.

     

    War Room Blu-ray Review

    Actors: T.C. Stallings, Priscilla Shirer, Alex Kendrick, Beth Moore, Karen Abercrombie
  • Director: Alex Kendrick
  • Producer: Stephen Kendrick
  • Format: AC-3, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Indonesian, Thai, Tagalog, Spanish, English
  • Dubbed: French, Portuguese, Thai, Spanish
  • Audio Description: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: December 22, 2015
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: December 31, 2018
  • Run Time: 120 minutes


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            Alex and Stephen Kendrick are brothers who started their filmmaking career with a church ministry/production company called Sherwood Productions in Georgia. Hollywood took notice when their minimal budget (thanks, in part, to members of the congregation who donated time and resources), and Sony Pictures struck up a deal with the brothers to collaborate on their faith-based films. War Room is the first of these releases, and despite some improvement in the production values, it appears to be business as usual for the Kendrick Brothers. Their paycheck may have increased significantly, but War Room is essentially just a gender-swap version of Fireproof, one of their first successes with Sherwood Productions.

     

    The Perfect Guy Blu-ray Review

    Actors: Michael Ealy, Charles Dutton, Sanaa Lathan, Kathryn Morris, Rutina Wesley
  • Director: David Rosenthal
  • Producers: Wendy Rhoads, Darryl Taja, Tommy Oliver, Nicole Rocklin
  • Format: Blu-ray, Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish, English
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Audio Description: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: December 29, 2015
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: December 31, 2018
  • Run Time: 100 minutes


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            The Perfect Guy is competently made, and as I watched it I began to think that critics had given the mildly amusing genre film a bad rap. Then days later I sat down to write my thoughts on the film and found that the bland safety of the narrative had left little impression on my mind. Forced to think about it, of course I was able to remember what had happened, but this is definitely the type of movie you are more likely to have memories of your experience watching the film than anything in the narrative itself. My experience was moderately enjoyable, despite being aware I was watching a film both predictable and generic to a fault.  

     

    Queen of Earth DVD Review

        Actors: Elisabeth Moss, Patrick Fugit, Katherine Waterston
  • Director: Alex Ross Perry
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: MPI Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: December 22, 2015
  • Run Time: 90 minutes




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            There are things about Queen of Earth that I appreciated, such as the narrative resemblance to psychological thrillers such as Ingmar Bergman’s Persona or Roman Polanski’s Repulsion and (to a lesser degree) Rosemary’s Baby. The trailer even has a stylistic resemblance to films in this sub-genre from the 1970s, despite the style being much more subdued in the actual film. Then there are aspects of the relationships in Queen of Earth that I was unable to appreciate, if only for the simple fact that I belong to the wrong gender.

     

    Jenny’s Wedding DVD Review

         Actors: Katherine Heigl, Alexis Bledel, Tom Wilkinson
  • Director: Mary Agnes Donoghue
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: MPI Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: December 29, 2015
  • Run Time: 94 minutes

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            Jenny’s Wedding is more competently made than the screenplay from writer/director Mary Agnes Donoghue deserves, thanks entirely to a cast willing to commit to outdated material always on the verge of turning into a film you would see on the Hallmark Channel. The basic structure of the film is all melodrama, enhancing the singular note of the movie with endless montages which utilize pop songs to convey the emotions the filmmaking is incapable of, but the tone of the movie takes on the air of a romantic comedy. The result is a breezy piece of bubblegum LGBT propaganda with a stacked cast.

    Time Out of Mind Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Richard Gere, Jena Malone
  • Director: Oren Moverman
  • Format: Blu-ray, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • Release Date: December 15, 2015
  • Run Time: 121 minutes



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            Narratively speaking, Time Out of Mind is so simplistic that I was certain the concept would never hold for the two-hour running-time. Then I began to notice the stylistic choices filmmaker Oren Moverman was making and realized that this is a film that needs to take its time for the approach to be effective. It is also a story made for the cinematic art form, at least according to Siegfried Kracauer’s list of the medium’s unique functions in his essential work, Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality.

     

    Slow Learners DVD Review

         Actors: Sarah Burns, Adam Pally
  • Directors: Don Argott, Sheena M. Joyce
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: MPI Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: December 15, 2015
  • Run Time: 97 minutes


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            Slow Learners opens with a couple of scenes that are brilliantly executed, and also set up the oddball tone of the comedy fittingly. After about 1/3 of the unique narrative about two socially inept school teachers with atrocious dating skills, the story shifts into a series of predictable and cliché plot structures. Even worse than this predictability, however, are the scenes in which the improvisational comedy made me stop laughing and feel embarrassed for the actors. However uneven the overall experience of Slow Learners may be, there are enough funny scenes to make enduring the bad ones worthwhile.

     

    Mistress America Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke
  • Director: Noah Baumbach
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (DTS 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: 20TH CENTURY FOX
  • Release Date: December 1, 2015
  • Run Time: 86 minutes


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            I have struggled with much of Noah Baumbach’s filmmaking, if only because of his tendency to focus on narratives with extremely flawed characters. In some cases, this suits the stories being told. It would be difficult to show the strain of a divorce without exposing the way that it can bring out the worst in the family being torn apart, as he did with The Squid and the Whale. But even in that film the problem I had with the characters had little to do with the mistakes that they made, but rather, the superiority and condescension used as they refused to admit fault in themselves. From that film on, Baumbach has had a fascination with pretentious and unlikable leading characters, a trend which only seemed to increase as he began collaborating with actress Greta Gerwig, who rose into relevance through a movement of film centered around performances so intentionally raw that they are often more annoying than amusing.

     

    You Can’t Take It With You Blu-ray Review

    Actors: Mischa Auer, Ann Miller, Spring Byington, Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore
  • Director: Frank Capra
  • Producer: Frank Capra
  • Format: Blu-ray, Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, Portuguese, Czech, German, Hindi, Finnish, Polish, Swedish, Arabic, Italian, Korean, Dutch, Hebrew, Norwegian, Hungarian, English, Spanish, Turkish, Greek, Danish, Japanese
  • Dubbed: French, German, Italian, Spanish
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: December 8, 2015
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: December 31, 2018
  • Run Time: 126 minutes


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            Frank Capra is often credited with making the first screwball comedy with It Happened One Night in 1934, and in 1938 he perfected it by adapting the popular stage play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart into an unforgettable American film classic. You Can’t Take It With You is significant for many reasons, including a breakout performance from James Stewart that would lead to collaborations with the director in some of his most beloved classics (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, It’s a Wonderful Life). But beyond historical significance is a simple story of universal appeal, one which had the heartfelt sincerity and optimism that was instantly recognizable in a Capra film. The story may be Kaufman and Hart’s, down to the dialogue transferred over from the play, but Capra embraced it as his own and created a cinematic collaboration as timeless today as it was nearly 80-years ago.