Underground: Season Two DVD Review

  • Actors: Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Aldis Hodge, Jessica De Gouw, Alano Miller, Christopher Meloni
  • Producer: Mark McNair
  • Format: AC-3, Box set, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated: Not Rated
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: July 11, 2017
  • Run Time: 470 minutes




        Following the success of several other historical television series, including the American Revolution-based “Turn,” a series about the Underground Railroad seemed a sure-fire hit. And it was, to a certain degree, but that wasn’t enough to keep it from being cancelled. Fans pointed at the cancellation of Netflix’s “The Get Down” around the same time as reason to believe that the black narrative was a deciding reason for the cancellation, but there are many other factors that must be considered. Just as “Turn” was cancelled, “Underground” was popular with fans and had decent reviews, but the high production costs were too much to warrant continuing. When Sinclair Broadcast Group bought WGNA’s parent company earlier this year, they canceled several of the channel’s most successful shows, including their biggest hit, “Outsiders.” “Underground” was another unfortunate casualty, though there have been rumors that it may find a home at another network.

The Lost City of Z Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Charlie Hunnam, Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller
  • Director: James Gray
  • Disc Format: Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English, Spanish
  • Subtitles: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Studio: Broad Green Pictures
  • Release Date: July 11, 2017
  • Run Time: 141 minutes




        David Lean must be turning over in his grave at the sad state of affairs that the film industry has become, that a film of classic and mature storytelling like The Lost City of Z would go largely unnoticed while multiplexes are swamped each weekend with the latest comic book release. The Lost City of Z has all of the makings of a classic, had it only been released 50-years ago. Based on a true story of adventure and exploration, it is a narrative that has no need for superhuman characters. The protagonist is human and flawed, but that also means that he may perish at any time along the adventure in the narrative, raising the stakes far higher than any of this year’s CGI-laden releases. There have been few films as praised this year, and it stars three actors who have been previously attached to massive blockbusters with great success (including the latest Spider-man, Tom Holland), despite displaying only a modicum of the skill they show in this film. And yet, somehow The Lost City of Z only saw a fraction of the ticket sales, proving through release date and limited marketing that Hollywood no longer has faith in the intelligence of audiences.

The Fate of the Furious 4K Ultra HD Review

  • Actors: Vin Diesel, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson
  • Director: F. Gary Gray
  • Writer: Chris Morgan
  • Producers: Vin Diesel, Neal H. Moritz, Michael Fottrell
  • Disc Format: NTSC, Subtitled, 4K
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), French (DTS 5.1), Spanish (DTS 5.1)
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish, English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: July 11, 2017
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: May 2, 2018




        There are reportedly two more films planned in the Fast and the Furious franchise, though if The Fate of the Furious is any indication of the direction they will take, it won’t be the driving sequences that makes them a success. This may have been what made the films popular in the first place, but the ensemble cast has gradually replaced the driving as the most important element since the fifth film, which reinvented the racing franchise as heist films. With Paul Walker missing for the first time and the two most memorable action sequences taking place outside of the driver’s seat and without any of the original stars, The Fate of the Furious marks yet another transition for the franchise.

Bitcoin Heist Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Kate Nhung, Thanh Pham, Veronica Ngo
  • Director: Ham Tran
  • Disc Format: Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, THX, Widescreen
  • Language: Vietnamese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: Not Rated
  • Studio: Well Go USA
  • Release Date: July 4, 2017
  • Run Time: 110 minutes




        In making the Vietnamese caper movie, Bitcoin Heist, filmmaker Ham Tran seems to have pillaged an assortment of Hollywood heist films for inspiration. This foreign film has the sensibility of a Hollywood blockbuster, complete with an ensemble cast of actors, action sequences, comedic relief, and a few twists in the narrative. Often it not only feels like movies like Ocean’s 11 and Now You See Me, but actually borrows from them shamelessly, even including a magician in the narrative to align more with the latter. While this is far from original, it is mostly effective in creating an entertaining film.

Money DVD Review

  • Actors: Jesse Williams, Kellan Lutz
  • Disc Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: June 27, 2017
  • Run Time: 86 minutes




        Despite being a dialogue-driven suspense film primarily set in a single location and shot at a brisk pace, Money feels like what happens when an independent film is approached the same way a studio film is made. There is more preoccupation with casting actors that have pre-existing fame (a.k.a. platform) to help sell their film, even if these particular actors are not the best or most talented for the job. In other words, the production of Money was ironically so preoccupied with making money that the film ultimately suffers because of it. A somewhat clever script is often destroyed by actors who aren’t always up to the task of handling some of the clumsier dialogue and one-dimensional characterizations.

London Heist DVD Review

  • Actors: Craig Fairbrass, James Cosmo, Mem Ferda
  • Director: Mark McQueen
  • Disc Format: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: LIONSGATE
  • DVD Release Date: July 11, 2017
  • Run Time: 95 minutes




        London Heist is a crime film directed by Mark McQueen, who is best known for his work on numerous British reality TV series, and co-written by Craig Fairbrass, who has written himself the leading role in this forgettable vanity project. Previously titled Gunned Down, London Heist has a plot as generic as each of its titles. There are heists, betrayals, shootouts, corrupt cops, and all of the other trappings of the genre, though none of the elements are elevated enough to make this film anything but forgettable. The right actor in the lead role may have had the ability to save the movie from feeling so generic, but Fairbrass was not this actor.

Song to Song Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Natalie Portman, Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchet
  • Director: Terrence Malick
  • Disc Format: Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: Broad Green Pictures
  • Release Date: July 4, 2017
  • Run Time: 129 minutes




        In the first half of Terrence Malick’s career, he only made a handful of films, and now he seems to be churning them out every couple of years. For fans of his work, this may be good news, but the quality and thoughtfulness suffers with the speediness of each release. The stylistic concerns that have taken over his latest wave of films often take precedence over any attempt to write a well-constructed screenplay before starting filming, and the filmmaker’s improvisational style now mostly contains sequences of his actors doing nothing in the most self conscious way possible. It often feels as though Malick has placed a camera in front of the cast and told them to do something. This rarely ever feels natural, which seems to be the intention of improvisation in filmmaking, and instead results in a kind of contrived silliness that rarely resembles real human behavior.

T2: Trainspotting Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Ewen Bremner, Robert Carlyle, Jonny Miller, Ewan McGregor, Kelly Macdonald
  • Director: Danny Boyle
  • Producers: Danny Boyle, Bernie Bellew, Christian Colson, Andrew MacDonald
  • Disc Format: AC-3, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish, English
  • Dubbed: French
  • Audio Description: French
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: June 27, 2017
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: December 31, 2019
  • Run Time: 117 minutes




        Danny Boyle has never directed a sequel, but it is fitting that he would start with the film that made him an international success. While Shallow Grave had proven his talents as a director, Trainspotting proved his ability to create a lasting hit. Part drug film, part heist film, and part coming-of-age drama fueled by its energetic soundtrack, surreal cinematography, and postmodern editing, Trainspotting was an instant cult classic. T2: Trainspotting is a sequel 20 years in the making, and it brings back these same elements, with themes that have matured even when its characters have not.

Dirty Dancing DVD Review

  • Actors: Abigail Breslin, Colt Prattes, Sarah Hyland, Nicole Scherzinger, Tony Roberts
  • Director: Wayne Blair
  • Disc Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1
  • Studio: LIONSGATE
  • DVD Release Date: June 27, 2017
  • Run Time: 135 minutes




        Dirty Dancing is a film which has had lasting success, despite being of questionable quality. It is the type of film that has a dedicated fanbase willing to ignore any critical shortcomings, and we have seen this taken advantage of with countless anniversary releases, a sequel (by name only), a stage version, and now an ABC original TV movie adaptation of the original. Wholly unnecessary, horrendously miscast, and torturously overlong, fans of the original were quick to denounce this remake when it aired on television just over a month ago. Rather than extending the embarrassment any longer than necessary, the film has quickly been released on DVD for suckers mistaking the similar cover art for the original campy cult classic.

Wilson Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Woody Harrelson, Shaun Brown, Brett Gelman, Sandy Oian, James Robert Miller
  • Disc Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • Release Date: June 20, 2017
  • Run Time: 95 minutes




        Wilson, the title character embodied by actor Woody Harrelson in this dark independent comedy, exists above the formulaic aspects of the narrative. Grumpy and prone to angry rants against the state of humanity, Wilson is also lonely and often breaks all social boundaries in order to make connections with any random person he encounters, making him a contradiction of personality quirks. And yet it all somehow works, and Harrelson is able to flesh the man out in a way that feels sincere, even if the film that this character exists in often has even less of an idea what to do with him than the strangers he encounters. In the end, this feels like a comedic character study lacking clear direction, and as a result it often reaches for formulaic resolution to unique set-ups.

Railroad Tigers Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Jackie Chan, Jaycee Chan, Zitao Huang
  • Director: Ding Sheng
  • Disc Format: Color, Dolby, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, THX, Widescreen
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Rated: Not Rated
  • Studio: Well Go USA
  • Release Date: June 20, 2017
  • Run Time: 125 minutes



        Jackie Chan has often named Harold Lloyd as a major influencer in his career of physically demanding action comedy, but it seems like Buster Keaton may have had more of an impact on his latest film, Railroad Tigers. Along with a healthy dose of humor parodying the Japanese that once occupied China, Railroad Tigers has endless scenes of action hijinks aboard a train, bringing to mind Keaton’s iconic masterpiece, The General. Even though these films share a great deal, including a finale with a massive train crash, Railroad Tigers is likely to leave many longing for the cutting edge filmmaking of 1926, mostly because of how much more convincing the effects were back then. Although Railroad Tigers has some practical effects and physical stunt-work to keep it engaging, there are also enough sequences of mediocre CGI to destroy any suspension of disbelief needed for the desired emotional impact.

Altitude Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Dolph Lundgren, Denise Richards, Greer Grammer, Chuck Liddell
  • Director: Alex Merkin
  • Disc Format: AC-3, DTS Surround Sound, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: LIONSGATE
  • Release Date: June 20, 2017
  • Run Time: 88 minutes



         Bad low budget action movies starring Dolph Lundgren have become increasingly common, as we rarely see the chemical engineer turned actor on the big screen (outside of The Expendables franchise) anymore. Those prepared to be disappointed by another project obviously done for the paycheck are going to be let down even more by the fact that Lundgren isn’t even the leading actor or the hero. Instead, Lundgren is demoted to the role of generic bad guy, while Denise Richards inexplicably attempts to fill the role of hero. Those who were baffled by Richards’ attempt at playing a nuclear physicist in the James Bond franchise (coincidentally the same franchise that gave Lundgren his start in the film industry) will be just as baffled by her casting as an FBI hostage negotiator, who single-handedly thwarts a plane hijacking in Altitude.

Life Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare
  • Director: Daniel Espinosa
  • Producers: David Ellison, Julie Lynn, Bonnie Curtis, Dana Goldberg
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: Portuguese, Malay, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Indonesian, Cantonese, Thai, Spanish, English
  • Dubbed: Portuguese, French, Thai, Spanish
  • Audio Description: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: June 20, 2017
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: December 31, 2019
  • Run Time: 104 minutes




        There isn’t much that is original about Life, including the name (not two years ago the same title was used for a film about a James Dean article written for Life Magazine, and let’s not forget the Eddie Murphy period prison comedy from 1999), but this is still one of the most entertaining films to come out in 2017. It is basically just Alien with cinematography that feels heavily inspired by Gravity, but it provides purer thrills than were found in the actual Alien sequel released this year. It won’t be winning any awards and has no chance of the same cultural impact, but Life does provide a gripping viewing experience for those willing to let go and enjoy the ride.

Mine Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Tom Cullen, Armie Hammer, Annabelle Wallis
  • Directors: Fabio Resinaro, Fabio Guaglione
  • Disc Format: Color, Dolby, NTSC, THX, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: Not Rated
  • Studio: Well Go USA
  • Release Date: June 13, 2017
  • Run Time: 106 minutes



         Mine attempts to do something unique with its survival tale, keeping the protagonist stuck in the same spot for most of the film. There are two reasons it is not entirely successful, and the first is that this idea is far from original. The easiest comparison to make would be 127 Hrs. and recently released The Wall, though moments may also call to mind Buried, All is Lost, and even Vehicle 19 or Locke. The second reason that the film eventually overstays its welcome is a reliance on hallucinations/dream sequences and flashbacks over the tension of the situation at hand. There may be little excitement in watching a man stand stationary for over an hour, but there is even less in the melodrama of his ordinary life.

3 Generations Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Naomi Watts, Elle Fanning, Susan Sarandon, Tate Donovan, Linda Emond
  • Director: Gaby Dellal
  • Disc Format: NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Studio: LIONSGATE
  • Release Date: June 13, 2017
  • Run Time: 92 minutes




         While I appreciate a film attempting to address hot button topics, this needs to be done in a way that is intelligent and thoughtful. It is not merely enough to make a movie about a transgender teenager as she navigates the tough road to becoming transsexual. Some might argue that any film with this topic is a step in the right direction, because at least these characters are being depicted onscreen, but the film also has to be good in order for people to see it. If nobody sees the film, it doesn’t much help the conversation, and I definitely would not recommend 3 Generations to anyone, in or out of the LGTBQ community. This is a poorly made film full of contrivances and unsympathetic characters, badly written and lazily directed. Worst of all, the transgender character is not even the main focus of the narrative, despite being at the center of it.

Chapter & Verse DVD Review

  • Actors: Daniel Beaty, Loretta Devine, Omari Hardwick, Selenis Leyva, Marc John Jefferies
  • Director: Jamal Joseph
  • Format: Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: LIONSGATE
  • DVD Release Date: June 13, 2017
  • Run Time: 100 minutes




         Chapter & Verse suffers from a familiar narrative, which leads audiences down expected paths to an inevitable conclusion. The predictability of the story could easily have rendered the film irrelevant, but it somehow remains compelling thanks to a screenplay co-written by star and director, which feels poetic without being overworked. It has the raw honesty and realism that Barry Jenkins was praised for last year and the social realism that Spike Lee built his career upon, even if missing the distinct directorial style that each of these directors put in their films.

Alone in Berlin DVD Review

  • Actors: Emma Thompson, Brendan Gleeson, Daniel Brühl
  • Director: Vincent Perez
  • Disc Format: Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • Release Date: June 13, 2017
  • Run Time: 95 minutes




         Actor-turned-director Vincent Pérez was already facing an uphill battle when he decided to make a film based on Hans Fallada’s novel about a middle-aged Berlin couple quietly resisting against the brutality of the Nazi regime. As intriguing as the concept sounds, the form of resistance taken was as unexciting as possible. There are no battles against the violence, speeches about the terror, or collaboration with enemies fighting the Nazis directly. Instead, the film centers on a silent resistance against Nazi propaganda, which means the primary action involves our protagonist writing postcards.

Bitter Harvest DVD Review

  • Actors: Max Irons, Samantha Barks, Barry Pepper, Terence Stamp
  • Director: George Mendeluk
  • Disc Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region1
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: LIONSGATE
  • Release Date: June 13, 2017
  • Run Time: 103 minutes




         Ever since James Cameron successfully mixed a fictional love story in with true-life tragedy in Titanic, there have been countless other failed attempts to do the same. Peal Harbor copied the formula almost exactly, even including an unnecessary love triangle to take over the narrative. You might think that filmmakers would realize that this is a misstep, and almost seems to trivialize the real-life events, but Bitter Harvest compounds these mistakes by placing them in a film about one of the largest genocides in history. Rather than focusing on the massive scale of the real-world atrocities, director/co-writer George Mendeluk mistakenly spends a majority of the film narrowing the scope to the fictional experiences of a single couple.

A United Kingdom Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Jack Davenport, David Oyelowo, Tom Felton
  • Disc Format: AC-3, DTS Surround Sound, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Surround)
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • Release Date: June 6, 2017
  • Run Time: 111 minutes




         Though restrained in its scenes of large emotional outbursts and rousing speeches, A United Kingdom faces the unfortunate problem of being released the same year of another subtle interracial romance based on true events. Loving was so expertly made without the need of melodrama or sentimentality that even sparsely used in A United Kingdom, these moments ring a bit contrived. Along with teary speeches and somewhat contrived feel-good moments, there is also a redundancy in Guy Hibbert’s screenplay and a surprising blandness in Amma Asante’s visual style, so that the one-note themes of A United Kingdom begin to wear thin, regardless of how convincing the chemistry is between the leads.

Operation Mekong Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Eddie Peng, Xudong Wu, Baojuo Chen
  • Director: Dante Lam
  • Disc Format: Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, THX, Widescreen
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese (Dolby Digital 5.0), Mandarin Chinese (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: Not Rated
  • Studio: Well Go USA
  • Release Date: June 6, 2017
  • Run Time: 124 minutes




         Although inspired by real-life tragic events, Operation Mekong works better as a mindless action film than it does as a respectful tribute to the lives lost. Even when the movie does give reverence to the Chinese characters engaged in the operation, it feels more like nationalist propaganda than a realistic depiction of actual people who gave their lives for justice. Director Dante Lam has had trouble with the spectacle of his films conflicting with the message in the past, and though this is not the problem with Operation Mekong, survivors of the victims may wish it were. On the other hand, those who merely want a few hours of intense procedural action will likely be pleased with the non-stop spectacle.