Son of Saul Blu-ray Review

     Actors: Géza Röhrig, Levente Molnár, Urs Rechn
  • Director: László Nemes
  • Format: Subtitled
  • Language: Hungarian
  • Subtitles: French, Portuguese, Spanish, English
  • Audio Description: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R                                  
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: April 26, 2016
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: December 31, 2019
  • Run Time: 107 minutes




  •         Nearly every year there seems to be a Holocaust film competing (often successfully) for award-season recognition. Last year it was Poland’s Ida that won Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards, and this year Son of Saul received the same accommodation for Hungary. Although there have been countless Holocaust films to win this award, this was only the second time a film from Hungary has won an Oscar, and the first time winning a Golden Globe. Skeptics might automatically assume that the subject matter alone was enough to earn this honor, but Son of Saul is a technically meticulous piece of filmmaking deserving of endless praise.

     

    Meet the Hitlers DVD Review

         Actors: Gene Hitler, Romano Hitler, Emily Hittler
  • Director: Matthew Ogens
  • Format: Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs:
  • Studio: Virgil Films and Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: April 5, 2016
  • Run Time: 84 minutes


  •  

     

            Meet the Hitlers is a seemingly narrow documentary about people with the name Hitler, and how it has impacted their lives. Although I found the premise for this documentary intriguing, I was concerned that there would not be enough material to hold my attention for an entire feature. This problem is helped a great deal by adding a secondary story about the investigation into Hitler’s actual bloodline, but the greater solution comes in the filmmaker’s ability to make this a film about the people rather than their name, which also seems to align with the overall message within the narrative.

    The Great Hypnotist DVD Review

         Actors: Xu Zheng, Karen Mok
  • Director: Leste Chen
  • Format: Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, THX, Widescreen
  • Language: Chinese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs:
  • Studio: Well Go USA
  • DVD Release Date: April 5, 2016
  • Run Time: 104 minutes


  •  

     

            As I watched The Great Hypnotist, I couldn’t help but feel that there was something being lost in the translation. There is a fantastic tradition of dialogue-heavy narratives with two characters verbally dueling through a series of twists and revelations, and this certainly seems to be a fitting categorization for this film as well, but it had little success in captivating my attention. This is why I wondered if it was the subtitle translation preventing me from becoming gripped by the dialogue, or if it were merely uninspired writing to blame.

     

    Stealing Cars DVD Review

        Actors: Felicity Huffman, William H. Macy, John Leguizamo
  • Director: Bradley Kaplan
  • Disc Info : Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, Portuguese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Thai, Spanish, English, Japanese
  • Dubbed: French, Japanese
  • Region: Region 1
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Rated: R                                  
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: April 5, 2016
  • Run Time: 101 minutes

  •  

     

            It would be too easy to criticize Stealing Cars for having an unoriginal plot, though that is certainly the case, but it isn’t the existence of other troubled youth narratives that are the problem. The real issue comes from the construction of this film, which done well would have helped excuse the unoriginality in the narrative. Instead, each cloying moment in a screenplay that feels written by an angst-filled film student is then indulged without logic or balance by the director.

     

    Only Angels Have Wings Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Rita Hayworth
  • Director: Howard Hawks
  • Disc Info: NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Number of discs:
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • Release Date: April 12, 2016
  • Run Time: 121 minutes


  •  

     

            Only Angels Have Wings is sandwiched between two other collaborations with Cary Grant in the filmography of Howard Hawks, showcasing his range as a director along with the star’s versatility. 1938’s Bringing Up Baby and 1940’s His Girl Friday gave audiences two different personas for Grant, one meek and bookish with the other cocky and masculine, but both utilized his comedic abilities within the screwball sub-genre. While 1939’s Only Angels Have Wings also made use of the witty repartee and masculinity, it gave audiences a chance to see Grant in a dramatic role and allowed Hawks to capture the excitement of aerial action sequences.

     

    Mediterranea DVD Review

         Actors: Koudous Seihon, Alassane Sy
  • Director: Jonas Carpignano
  • Format: Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: Arabic, English, French, Italian
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • DVD Release Date: March 29, 2016
  • Run Time: 110 minutes


  •  

     

            Director Jonas Carpignano’s stylistic approach to Mediterranea often feels akin to a documentary, limiting the musical score’s encroachment on the narrative and enough shaky handheld camera work to help the audience feel each jarring moment with an enhanced level of discomfort. And it is a subject which both the truthful depiction and uncomfortable realism, one which remains narrow in its character depiction while simultaneously telling a story with universally wide relevance. The African immigrants depicted in Mediterranea could very easily be any number of other immigrants across the globe, and that is why it is important to also anchor the realistic narrative with a character to empathize with.

     

    The Hateful Eight Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth
  • Director: Quentin Tarantino
  • Format: Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: R                                  
  • Studio: The Weinstein Company
  • Release Date: March 29, 2016
  • Run Time: 168 minutes



  •  

    Combining (and often enhancing) the social commentary and western setting of Django Unchained with the simple story structure and collection of violent character types found in Reservoir Dogs, The Hateful Eight seems an accurate composite of Quentin Tarantino’s entire filmography, from beginning to present. In terms of violence, The Hateful Eight continues the progression of extreme and exaggerated practical effects, which seems to have started in the universe of Kill Bill with spurting blood. At the same time, the amount of violence is often surprisingly restrained; when your cast of characters is limited by remote location, each death is that much more significant. It is the simplicity of this plot, the restraint in storytelling that it demands, which ultimately allows Tarantino to create one of his greatest cinematic achievements.

    Killing Them Safely DVD Review

         Actors: Rick Smith, Tom Smith
  • Director: Nick Berardini
  • Format: Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1                                  
  •       Not Rated
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • DVD Release Date: March 29, 2016
  • Run Time: 95 minutes



  •  

     

            I can’t say that I ever put much thought into TASERs beyond an instinctual feeling to avoid them. I haven’t been in a situation which put me in the line of fire and have no intentions of ever discovering what it feels like, but the documentary Killing Them Safely gave me facts to back up my instincts. Even if a majority of those hit with the latest police-issued weapon are left without permanent damage, I still see no reason to take the risk of becoming one of the few that don’t survive. And even more importantly, this is just another piece of evidence in recent scrutiny of police behavior, and it is the poor discretion of the users which is far more frightening than the weapon itself.

     

    Bicycle Thieves Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola
  • Director: Vittorio De Sica
  • Format: Restored, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Italian
  • Subtitles: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Studio: Criterion Collection (Direct)
  • Release Date: March 29, 2016
  • Run Time: 89 minutes


  •  

     

            The approach to cinema as an art form has been divisive from the very beginning, as the Lumiére brother made films ground in documentary-style realism while George Méliès would trail blaze the formalist approach shortly after. Another such moment of stylistic crossroads in film history came with the formalism of Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane (1941) followed by the Italian neorealist approach taken by Vittorio De Sica in Bicycle Thieves (1948). With non-professional actors, natural lighting, and the use of real locations in post-WWII Italy, Bicycle Thieves remains an icon for realism in cinema, regardless of narrative.

     

    The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks
  • Director: Francis Lawrence
  • Disc Info: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, DTS Surround Sound, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: PG-13                                  
  • Studio: Lionsgate
  • Release Date: March 22, 2016
  • Run Time: 111 minutes



  •         Despite the massive success of The Hunger Games franchise, I have been highly skeptical of the young adult book adaptations since the original 2012 release. The first film gave me pause due to a remarkable number of similarities the PG-13 film shared with a far edgier R-rated Japanese film from 2000. But despite what seemed like blatant borrowing, The Hunger Games was engaging enough to draw my curiosity to the sequel. I somehow assumed that the continuation of “The Hunger Games” in the title ensured the film would finish with another climactic sequence within the games, and was extremely letdown to discover the film utilized a ‘deus ex machine’ moment to remove all significant characters from the action before the Hunger Games completed. This would be like releasing a film called Batman v Superman where the film ends just before they are about to fight. I felt cheated by the title and annoyed at the convenient removal of the only interesting dilemma in the franchise. My frustration was only carried over into the second sequel, which had no Hunger Games and no worthwhile action or plot.

     

    Brooklyn Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, Hugh Gormley
  • Director: John Crowley
  • Language: English (DTS 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Dubbed: Spanish
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13                                 
  • Studio: 20TH CENTURY FOX
  • Release Date: March 15, 2016
  • Run Time: 105 minutes


  •  

            I love films in the romance genre, though it often takes a willingness to forgive the predictable contrivances of the genre. Often the goal only appears to be satiating the audience’s desired outcome, which leads to cheesy and unbelievable results involving beautiful actors, manipulated emotions through sentimental soundtracks. Rarely is there a romance film containing characters resembling real people, with actual choices to make and difficult outcomes because of these choices. Brooklyn is one of these rare films, demanding more from its audience while also paying off with far more intelligent rewards due to the excellence in filmmaking. In other words, Brooklyn doesn’t sacrifice logic and character development for the sake of its romantic moments, and this makes them feel earned.

     

    Victor Frankenstein Blu-ray Review

         Actors: James McAvoy, Daniel Radcliffe
  • Directors: Paul McGuigan
  • Language: English (DTS 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13                                 
  • Studio: 20TH CENTURY FOX
  • Release Date: March 8, 2016
  • Run Time: 110 minutes



  •  

            This re-imagining of Mary Shelley’s classic gothic novel from Twentieth Century Fox is not a complete waste of time, but it is a bad enough that I am sure the failure has Universal Studios concerned. The iconic horror studio has long been planning a “Monsters Universe” franchise to mimic the success the comic book universes, but the last thing that they want is audience’s to think of unsuccessful attempts such as this. Fortunately, The Mummy is the first endeavor in the open-world of Universal horror, and hopefully audiences will have time to forget this film before they re-imagine Frankenstein one more time.

     

    Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip DVD Review

    Format: AC-3, Animated, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: March 15, 2016
  • Run Time: 90 minutes

  •  

     

            I don’t know if it was Fox or Regency, but someone certainly seems to be losing faith in the Alvin and the Chipmunks franchise, and it is apparent in the slapdash manner with which The Road Chip was constructed. I’m not saying that these CGI incarnations of the 1980s cartoon characters deserved much better treatment in the third theatrical sequel to the mediocre 2007 film, but the entire production feels like a straight-to-video movie. You know the kind; so poorly made that parents will gladly let play on the television in the other room, but would dread sitting through it in a theater.

     

    Turn: Washington’s Spies: The Complete Second Season DVD Review

        Actors: Daniel Henshall, Heather Lind, Jamie Bell, Kevin McNally, Seth Numrich
  • Format: Box set, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated:   Not Rated
  • Studio: ANCHOR BAY
  • DVD Release Date: March 22, 2016
  • Run Time: 438 minutes

  •  


            Doing its best to toe the line between historical accuracy and escapist entertainment, this AMC Revolutionary War series does its best to provide something for all viewers. Loosely based on the book, “Washington’s Spies,” written by Alexander Rose, “Turn” primarily follows the formation of the Culper Spy Ring headed up by a farmer named Abraham Woodhull (Jamie Bell). As the son of magistrate in a small Long Island town, Abraham is an unlikely suspect, though his disdain for the behavior of the British army camped in the area leads him to take action for the opposing side. Despite initially hoping to refrain from involvement in the war, a few coincidental childhood connections with rebels leads Abraham to take on a crucial role in the formation of America’s first spy ring.

     

    The Spoils of Babylon DVD Review

    Actors: Jessica Alba, Kristin Wiig, Tim Robbins, Tobey Maguire, Will Ferrell
  • Format: Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Not Rated
  • Studio: ANCHOR BAY
  • DVD Release Date: March 8, 2016
  • Run Time: 138 minutes

  •  


            First it was the invention of the DVD and then the popularization of online streaming services, but whatever the reasons behind it, television binge-watching is a phenomenon new to the entertainment industry. Some programming has taken full advantage of the change in how people watch TV, making possible shows like “24” or “Lost,” which require dedicated viewers. And original programming on Netflix or other streaming services seem to lend themselves to these impulsive viewing tendencies, but not all shows are enhanced by binge-watching. In the case of the IFC spoof mini-series, “Eric Jonrosh’s The Spoils of Babylon,” less is more.

     

    Brave Miss World Blu-ray Review


     

     

             Though most attention went to the lack of diversity among the nominees during the 2016 Academy Awards ceremony, for many it was a performance by Lady Gaga which had a lasting emotional impact. The pop star was joined onstage during her performance of the Oscar nominated song from The Hunting Ground by dozens of rape victims. My initial instinct was to refer to them as former rape victims, but that is about as accurate as referring to someone who has been to war as a former veteran. This was made clear by the bravery of those onstage at the Academy Awards, but even more so in the strength shown within Cecilia Peck’s documentary, Brave Miss World.

     

    Sisters Blu-ray Review

    Actors: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Ike Barinholtz, James Brolin
  • Format: Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (DTS 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (DTS 5.1)
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish, English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: March 15, 2016
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: May 2, 2018


  •  

            The chemistry between these two “Saturday Night Live” alumni is undeniable, even if this is only the second feature they have starred in together. Often it is their ability to play off of each other so effortlessly which allows us to believe they are sisters, far more than the actresses’ ability to look like each other, and it is also what saves Sisters from an unfocused screenplay. If you ever thought that a “SNL” skit was funny until it repeated the same joke way past its welcome, you will have an idea of the type of approach Paula Pell takes in writing Sisters, with half of a lengthy 2-hour comedy centered on the joke that is middle-aged people partying like they are teenagers again.

    Coming Home Blu-ray Review

    Actors: Huiwen Zhang, Chen Daoming, Gong Li
  • Director: Zhang Yimou
  • Producers: Li Li, Jia Yueting, Jerry Ye, Zhao Yifang, Zhang Zhao
  • Format: AC-3, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese
  • Subtitles: French, Portuguese, Spanish, English
  • Dubbed: Portuguese, Spanish
  • Audio Description: English
  • Rated: PG-13                                           Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: March 8, 2016
  • Run Time: 109 minutes



  •         Coming Home carries on the wonderful tradition of melodrama in Chinese cinema, certainly reminiscent of director Zhang Yimou’s early work (Raise the Red Lantern, The Road Home), but even more so of the quiet family dramas made by the legendary Yasujirô Ozu. There are not many surprises within the narrative of Coming Home, but it is a film instead content to the dedication examination of a simple premise. Even while there is a clear representation of a difficult political time in Chinese history, Yimou wisely makes this a film about the personal impact on individuals rather than the larger issues surrounding them.

     

    Macbeth Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard
  • Director: Justin Kurzel
  • Format: NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R                                         
  • Studio: ANCHOR BAY
  • Release Date: March 8, 2016
  • Run Time: 113 minutes


  •  

     

            Despite casting two magnificently proficient actors in the iconic leads, there is little new which can be brought to the words of William Shakespeare. Countless talented actors have spoken these words, leaving only the awe of unique visual spectacle for director Justin Kurzel to breathe new life into this age-old tale of violent ambition and the madness that follows. On a bare stage it is only Shakespeare’s words which paint the visuals into the viewer’s mind, but Adam Arkapaw’s cinematography is a narrator that richly parallels these words with a dreamlike landscape of imagery and ideas. This is still Macbeth, unlikely to brings story surprises to anyone who paid attention in their high school English classes, though the real shock is how engaging a familiar tale can be in the hands of an ambitious young filmmaker.  

    Intruders DVD Review

         Actors: Martin Starr, Beth Riesgraf, Rory Culkin
  • Director: Adam Schindler
  • Format: Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated                                  
  • Studio: Entertainment One
  • DVD Release Date: March 1, 2016
  • Run Time: 90 minutes




  •         Although it attempts to add a new twist to home invasion horror, the revisionist ideas in Intruders aren’t even original to this recently popularized sub-genre. The blurring of lines between victim and villain is a familiar trope in nearly all revenge films as well as sharing similar space in recent confinement horror such as 10 Cloverfield Lane and the upcoming Fede Alvarez home invasion horror, Don’t Breathe. The latter even involves a homeowner suffering from a disability, not unlike the crippling agoraphobia that the protagonist of Intruders suffers from. Of course, these handicaps may very well serve as the film’s red herring, giving the intruders a false sense of confidence until the tables are turned and they become the victim.