Chinese Puzzle Blu-ray Review

     Actors: Romain Duris
  • Director: Cedric Klapisch
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English, French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Cohen Media Group
  • Release Date: October 14, 2014
  • Run Time: 117 minutes




  •         There are plenty of sequels to action movies, because there are always new villains and injustices for heroes to battle against. There are no shortages of horror sequels, giving the impression that some monsters will never die; at least not as long as their survival continues to sell tickets. The one genre which rarely sees a sequel is the romantic comedy, because to continue the story often means admitting that the ‘happily ever after’ ending from the previous installment was somewhat of a lie. Filmmaker Cédric Klapisch tackles this impossible task for the second time in one narrative, with time between each sequel being his only saving grace.

     

    Le Chef Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Jean Reno, Michael Youn
  • Director: Daniel Cohen
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Studio: Cohen Media Group
  • Release Date: October 21, 2014
  • Run Time: 84 minutes



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            Hollywood has long had the tendency to look towards the foreign film market for new ideas to replicate, but Daniel Cohen’s lighthearted culinary comedy is a French film which seems to be imitating the bubbling simplicity of an American comedy. Realism and originality are thrown out the window for a carefree romp in the cinematic world of French haute-cuisine. While this approach is likely to keep Le Chef off of any lists for artistic achievements, it makes for an engaging evening of entertainment.

     

    Nightcap Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Isabelle Huppert, Jacques Dutronc
  • Director: Claude Chabrol
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Cohen Media Group
  • Release Date: September 30, 2014
  • Run Time: 99 minutes



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            Claude Chabrol’s Nightcap (Merci pour le Chocolat) is what you might have gotten from Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca had it been a comedy. There is a mystery at the center of the film, but the reveal comes as less of a surprise as the casual manner with which the film’s murderous culprit justifies and dismisses these evil actions. Even the revelations of criminal insanity are not enough to disturb the pristine veneer of upper class wealth.

     

    Daniel Boone: The Complete Series DVD Review

         Actors: Patricia Blair, Darby Hinton, Dal McKennon, Ed Ames Fess Parker
  • Directors: Nathan Juran William Wiard
  • Writers: David Duncan, D.D. Beauchamp
  • Producers: Aaron Rosenberg
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 36
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Fox Mod
  • DVD Release Date: September 26, 2014
  • Run Time: 8150 minutes




  •         Daniel Boone was a real life frontiersman and American pioneer whose exploits and explorations were impressive enough to make him one of the country’s first folk heroes. This television series does not look to paint an accurate representation of history, but instead focuses on enhancing the legend of Boone. There are definite timeline issues in the narrative, but the spirit of the adventurer is captured in the same manner I imagine word of mouth originally embellished Boone into celebrity.

     

    Witching & Bitching DVD Review

         Actors: Pepon Nieto, Mario Casas, Hugo Silva
  • Director: Álex de la Iglesia
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: Spanish
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • DVD Release Date: October 14, 2014
  • Run Time: 114 minutes



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            Director Álex de la Iglesia (El Crimen Perfecto, The Last Circus) has shown his ability to find the comedic edge in dark and often morbid narratives in the past, but he seems to be having more fun than ever with his latest, Witching & Bitching. Part crime film, part buddy action, part horror, and part screwball comedy; this film crams a little bit of everything into a concise and energetic 114 minutes that ends up feeling like a blend of From Dusk till Dawn and The Witches if Eastwick on crack. This may not be a perfect film, but it is unique and fun enough to easily forgive its minor shortcomings.

     

    Venus in Fur DVD Review

         Actors: Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner
  • Director: Roman Polanksi
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: French, German
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • DVD Release Date: October 14, 2014
  • Run Time: 96 minutes



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            Fans of the award-winning play will enjoy the stylistic nuances that Roman Polanski has added through the medium of film, though it remains a narrative contingent upon the ability of the only two actors in the cast. The entire story takes place in just one evening, taking place at a single location, and to call it ‘dialogue-heavy’ would be the understatement of the year. This is what made for such great theater, containing roles theatrical actors can often only dream of, though Polanski and his cast must work twice as hard to make the same elements work on film.

     

    Afterlife: Season Two DVD Review

         Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Stereo)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: October 7, 2014
  • Run Time: 370 minutes



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            Made nearly ten years ago, “Afterlife” is only now finding its way to home entertainment, and the reason is clear to find in the cast members. This British horror series stars Andrew Lincoln of “The Walking Dead” fame, with ghosts rather than zombies for the actor to take on. Unfortunately, the series feels more than ten years old, with a dated and cliché narrative structure. Ghost stories are difficult to make engaging, and “Afterlife” does little to update or modernize the tired clichés of the genre. In many ways this series is The Sixth Sense in episodic form, with a gifted medium burdened with the task of helping all of the dead ghosts she encounters. Season two even begins with a narrative in which the dead are unaware they are no longer alive, a further reminder of the 1999 box office phenomenon.

     

    In the Flesh: The Complete Season Two DVD Review

         Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Stereo)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: October 7, 2014
  • Run Time: 342 minutes



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            It is completely unfair to make even the slightest comparison of “In the Flesh” to “The Walking Dead,” although it is inevitable that this association will be made between the two zombie television events. For one thing, “In the Flesh” is not a post-apocalyptic storyline. We join the story after civilization has recovered almost entirely, and it instead becomes a story about integration and acceptance. The horror elements are all but removed and zombies instead become a symbol for diversity and a metaphor for homosexuality.

     

    The Honorable Woman DVD Review

          Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Stereo)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: October 14, 2014
  • Run Time: 468 minutes



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            There may be a brilliant storyline somewhere buried in “The Honorable Woman.” It’s just a shame that the writers didn’t feel the need to accommodate the audience in understanding what is going on until it is nearly finished. While this may work for a film which audiences are invested in once they buy the ticket and sit in the darkened theater, but an 8-episode television series provides too many opportunities to jump ship before revelations make the narrative comprehensible, much less enjoyable.

     

    Silent Witness: Seasons One and Seventeen DVD Review

          Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Stereo)
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: October 21, 2014
  • Run Time: 363 minutes



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            Imagine the American television series, “Bones.” Now remove all humor, quirky characters, convenient plot twists and escapist entertainment. What you would have remaining is the long-running British pathology crime series, “Silent Witness.” Whether you would be happier with this than the mindless American show depends on how much accuracy you want from your programming, as opposed to entertainment. “Silent Witness” also has the benefit of TV-movie lengths for each of the mystery narratives, which allows for more detail and character development.

     

    Two Broke Girls: The Complete Third Season DVD Review

         Actors: Kat Dennings, Beth Behrs, Garrett Morris, Jonathan Kite, Matthew Moy
  • Writers: Michael Patrick King, Whitney Cummings
  • Producer: Michael Patrick King
  • Format: Multiple Formats, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish, English
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: October 14, 2014
  • Run Time: 528 minutes



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            If sexual innuendo and jokes at the intelligence level of a fifteen-year-old boy are still humorous to you, or if you still are fifteen, “2 Broke Girls” will make you laugh. I watch the series with mild amusement, mostly because I have met girls like the foul-mouthed and sex-obsessed Max (Kat Denning), as well as the superficial and self-involved Caroline (Beth Behrs). I watch the show because I can turn it off after twenty minutes, reminded why I no longer date those girls. After three seasons, both have grown slightly. Max has her first real relationship and takes steps in achieving her dreams. Caroline is also humbled with time from wealth, though her disgustingly greedy side still emerges with any hint of wealth in men, even despising Max’s boyfriend when she thinks he is poor despite having no money herself.

     

    The Mentalist: The Complete Sixth Season DVD Review

         Actors: Simon Baker, Robin Tunney, Tim Kang, Owain Yeoman, Amanda Righetti
  • Producers: Bruno Heller, Chris Long, Tom Szentgyorgyi, Daniel Cerone, Eoghan Mahony
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 5
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: September 30, 2014
  • Run Time: 927 minutes


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            There are a dozen different ways that “The Mentalist” can be compared to other shows. You could easily compare it to the cable show “Psych,” but I tend to find similarities with this show and “Lie to Me.” Both use the study of human behavior in order to deduce the truth behind a crime. “Lie to Me” was about a man brilliantly able to detect lies, better than a polygraph. There is a sequence in “The Mentalist” in which a suspect says that he heard Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) could tell when anyone was lying. He is part Sherlock Holmes, but mostly just a con artist with extensive experience in the ways of human behavior.

     

    Adventure Time: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray Review

         Format: Multiple Formats, Animated, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Studio: Cartoon Network
  • Release Date: October 7, 2014
  • Run Time: 286 minutes





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            “Adventure Time” is in that new category of animation on the cartoon network which I find confounding, albeit remarkably entertaining. It seems as though this is a straightforward kid’s show, but it gets remarkably close to being edgy enough for adults at moments. There is always a ripcord to pull, quickly pulling the narrative back to safety in time for the episode’s close, but watching this show with children present often makes me nervous. Perhaps this is partly due to the high octane, bizarre, and often psychedelic nature of the show which makes me feel as though I’m on drugs.

     

    Courage the Cowardly Dog: Season Two DVD Review

         Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Studio: Cartoon Network
  • DVD Release Date: October 14, 2014
  • Run Time: 286 minutes




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            This Cartoon Network series from 1999 feels like a marriage of the classic Hanna-Barbera Productions style of animation with the irreverent and slightly dark narratives which have recently become popular in series such as “Adventure Time” and “Regular Show.” I would hardly call it a classic, but it seems to have enough of an oddly dedicated fanbase to account for the DVD release of the second season. I would assume a large percentage of those likely to buy this set are also adults, because some of the content in “Courage the Cowardly Dog” borders on being too frightening and bizarre for younger children.

     

    Reign: The Complete First Season DVD Review

         Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Color, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: French, Thai, Spanish,     Portuguese, English
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 5
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: September 23, 2014
  • Run Time: 916 minutes


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            So many stations have tried to do the historical soap opera narratives recently, apparently in an attempt to cash in on the few that have worked. It should come as no surprise that CW has decided to follow in the footsteps of series such as “The Tudors” and “The White Queen,” and even less of a surprise that they have treated it the same as they did “Gossip Girl” or “Vampire Diaries.” With a cast of young attractive actors, the story quickly set up a love triangle, a narrative necessity of any CW series. While this is an inevitability that is irritating but forgivable, it is far more difficult to justify the typical CW inclusion of current pop music in the soundtrack.

     

    Chef Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman
  • Director: Jon Favreau
  • Writer: Jon Favreau
  • Producers: Jon Favreau, Sergei Bespalov
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Ultraviolet, Color, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1)
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish, English
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Universal Studios
  • Release Date: September 30, 2014 
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: May 2, 2016



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            There have been many similar films about fathers learning to spend more time with their sons, and possibly even more food-centric narratives such as the one in Chef. In some ways, this film feels like the plot of Real Steel, only with food replacing the fighting robots, directed by the same man whose directorial debut also had a touching scene of cooking for a sweet young girl in need of a parental figure. It is nice to see Jon Favreau return to his roots as a filmmaker, though it may have been more believable had he not cast Scarlett Johansson as his onscreen lover.

     

    From Dusk till Dawn: Season One Blu-ray Review

         Actors: D.J. Cotrona, Zane Holtz, Eliza Gonzalez, Wilmer Valderrama, Robert Patrick
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Entertainment One
  • Release Date: September 16, 2014
  • Run Time: 450 minutes


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            With the constant reliance on remakes and sequels in the film industry, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to see these habits spill over into television. This past year saw a large number of film-to-television adaptations in every imaginable genre, from romantic comedy (“About a Boy”) to dark crime films (“Fargo”) and serial killer narratives (“Hannibal”). When Robert Rodriguez decided to create his own station, it almost seemed inevitable he would dig into his past material for the original material. I am just shocked that it wasn’t from one of the longer-running franchises, such as El Mariachi or Machete. 

     

    The Wonder Years: Season One DVD Review

          Actor: Fred Savage
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Time Life Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: October 7, 2014
  • Run Time: 288 minutes




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            “The Wonder Years” was one of those shows I thought would never make it to DVD, mostly because of how much great music from the show had copyright issues. Not only has it finally made its way onto DVD for the first time ever, it comes with the originally broadcast music, including Joe Cocker’s memorable rendition of The Beatles’ With a Little Help from My Friends. But this is a show that is much more than the fantastic soundtrack, though just as much of a classic as the hits that took so long to get copyrighting for.

     

    American Muscle Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Nick Principe, George P. Wilbur, Todd Farmer
  • Director: Ravi Dhar
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Well Go USA
  • Release Date: September 30, 2014
  • Run Time: 90 minutes



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            American Muscle is a revenge film that is all style and absolutely no substance, from the acting to the asinine excuse of a screenplay. Logic and decency is thrown out, along with everything other than rusted metal, splattered blood, and bare breasts. It is basically an overly bad Grindhouse attempt at Faster, the Dwayne Johnson film nobody saw. Despite a surprisingly slick visual palette, director and cinematographer Ravi Dhar seems to have no clue what real humans behave like and no interest in relating to his audience.

     

    Third Person Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Adrien Brody, James Franco, Liam Neeson
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: September 30, 2014
  • Run Time: 137 minutes



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            The ability to enjoy Third Person relies entirely on the viewer’s level of patience and willingness to accept significance and meaning to outweigh any emotional attachment to the characters. Many of the storylines and the characters in the film are contrivances meant to hammer in the thematic points, which take on more significance than believability or being relatable. This isn’t for lack of effort from the cast, however, who all give dedicated performances to filmmaker Paul Haggis’ vision.