ScreenX Review: Birds of Prey




        With movie theaters offering a variety of premium formats, audiences often now have choices beyond what film to watch. In the recent years, we have seen rise in online debates over whether to see a film in IMAX or Dolby Digital, 2D or 3D, dine-in or not,  recliner or regular seats. CJ 4DPLEX has made the decision-making even more difficult, offering two additional premium formats to choose from. While their 4DX has been around longer and is more well-known, ScreenX is an even more recent innovation in the efforts toward a more immersive cinematic experience. ScreenX is similar to IMAX in some ways, but with the image being wider instead of taller. However, this description alone doesn’t do the experience justice. While IMAX may give you additional screen/image look at, ScreenX is more about utilizing peripheral vision in order to feel as though you are inside the film. I think a more apt description would be to compare it to 3D, without the need for glasses or the use of cheap gimmicks.


Battle of Jangsari Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Megan FoxGeorge EadsKim Myung-Min
  • Directors: Kwak Kyung-taek
  • Format: Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Surround Sound, Widescreen
  • Language: Korean (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: 
     NR 
     Not Rated
  • Studio: Well Go Usa
  • DVD Release Date: January 28, 2020
  • Run Time: 108 minutes



          The war film has become increasingly popular in South Korean cinema in recent years, and the Korean War is often an easy starting point for many of the narratives. With American involvement in that war, it also opens up the opportunity for cross-cultural casting and the occasional co-production between nations. Operation Chromite (2016) dealt with General MacArthur’s Incheon Landing Operation, and it cast Liam Neeson to play the role. Battle of Jangsari is about a battle used as a diversionary tactic to help MacArthur’s mission succeed, and while Neeson does not return, this time we have George Eads, who left his role on “MacGyver” to play General Stevens. As a bonus, Battle of Jangsari also has Megan Fox as a tenacious reporter advocating for the lives of the minimally trained students sent into battle.


The Siren DVD Review

  • Actors: Margaret Ying Drake, MacLeod Andrews
  • Director: Perry Blackshear
  • Disc Format: NTSC, Subtitled
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: 
     NR 
     Not Rated
  • Studio: Dark Sky Films
  • DVD Release Date: January 28, 2020
  • Run Time: 79 minutes






         Often an audience’s disappointment with a film has little to do with quality, and much more to do with unfulfilled expectations. Sometimes these expectations come from the audience member’s past experiences, including watching similar films. And then there are the times, like The Siren, when the expectations are established by a faulty marketing/advertising campaign. From the artwork alone, one could not be faulted for making the assumption that The Siren belongs in the horror genre, when in reality it is an emo-romance with threats of horror that never truly develop. While I give credit to low budget filmmaking, the budget seems to have affected the direction of this narrative in a rather dull way.

4DX Review: Weathering with You




Prior to North American release, Weathering with You was one of the Japan’s most successful films of last year, garnering so much critical and audience appreciation that plans to export it quickly followed. On top of being the first anime to be released in India, a North American release seemed inevitable, especially after the success of the filmmaker’s last film, Your Name (2016). But it was also so successful that there was a demand in Japan to release the film in the 4DX format, and because of that, there is a limited opportunity for American audiences to experience this film in the most immersive way possible. Exclusively at select Regal 4DX theaters for a limited time starting this Friday, January 31st, Weathering with You will be available in this premium format.
       

Britt-Marie Was Here Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Pernilla August, Peter Haber, Anders Mossling, Malin Levanon, Stella Oyoko Bengtsson, Lancelot Ncube
  • Director: Tuva Novotny
  • Writers: Tuva Novotny, Anders Frithiof August, Oystein Karlsen
  • Producers: Gustav Olden, Nicklas Wikstrom Nicastro
  • Disc Format: NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: Swedish (Dolby Digital 5.1), Swedish (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: 
     NR 
     Not Rated
  • Studio: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: January 14, 2020
  • Run Time: 97 minutes


         Too often when American audiences think of foreign film, they imagine the kind of stuffy films that critics tend to praise, the types that end up on best-of lists despite the average audience’s inability appreciate the artistry. Britt-Marie Was Here is not that kind of film, instead resembling the kind of crowd-pleasing, feel-good films that tend to do well in the American independent film industry. Quirky films with heart may not surpass the blockbusters in the box office, but they have an audience that translates across borders. All it would take for this film to translate to English-speaking audiences is the willingness to read subtitles.

The Knight of Shadows Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Jackie Chan, Elane Zhone, Ethan Juan
  • Directors: Vash
  • Disc Format: Dolby, Subtitled, Surround Sound, Widescreen
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: 
     NR 
     Not Rated
  • Studio: Well Go Usa
  • Release Date: January 21, 2020
  • Run Time: 109 minutes



        While somewhat confusing prior to seeing the film, it makes sense that The Knight of Shadows Blu-ray release has two contrasting characters portrayed on the cover. Along with Jackie Chan smiling in a white outfit, Ethan Juan is scowling in all black, representing the two sides of this film. Chan’s character provides most of the lighthearted humor and slapstick action, while Juan takes up the melodramatic role of tragic hero. Unfortunately, this mash-up is often as poorly planned and as jarringly inconsistent as the cover art for the Blu-ray.


Judy Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Rufus Sewell, Michael Gambon, Renée Zellweger
  • Director: Rupert Goold
  • Disc Format: NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1 
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: 
     PG-13 
     Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • Studio: Lions Gate
  • Release Date: December 24, 2019





         If it’s award season, you can be sure that there will be a number of performance-driven biopics. It is a genre that has continued without much alteration over the years, often focusing on romantic troubles, substance addiction, traumatic childhoods, and careers either on the rise or fall. Judy is no exception, and if it weren’t for Renée Zellweger’s performance as Hollywood legend Judy Garland, I would have little reason to recommend it.

Overcomer Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Alex Kendrick, Priscilla Shirer, Shari Rigby, Cameron Arnett, Aryn Wright-Thompson
  • Director: Alex Kendrick
  • Producers: Aaron Burns, Justin Tolley, Stephen Kendrick
  • Format: Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: Thai, Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Indonesian, English, Tagalog, French, Spanish, Vietnamese
  • Dubbed: Thai, French, Spanish
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Audio Description: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: 
     PG 
     Parental Guidance Suggested
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: December 17, 2019
  • Run Time: 120 minutes


        I honestly don’t know what is more offensive to me; Alex Kendrick’s abrasively preachy screenplay, his complete inability to direct a single sequence in a way that is realistic or technically competent, or the fact that he casts himself in what must by blindness of vanity and power. I venture to say that the acting is the most offensive, but all of Overcomer reeks of opportunism and pandering trying to disguise itself as sincere faith. It feels like the only thing that Kendrick really believes is that he doesn’t have to improve as a filmmaker for sheltered and naïve Christians to continue to throw their money at him. The only thing that has changed over a decade of shitty Alex Kendrick films (Facing the Giants, Fireproof, Courageous, War Room) is the size of the role he gives himself.  


Freaks Blu-ray Review








        Freaks is one of those films you can almost hear the pitch for, as it is a clear hybrid of two successfully used formulas from recent past. The initial approach may be somewhat original, but this is essentially just a variation on the same mutant-human themes that have been at the center of countless superhero movies and TV series in the past few decades. Add to this trope a child character forced to spend their entire life inside a single home, and it is quite clear that Freaks was intended to be Room meets X-Men. At times this combination is compelling, while too much of the film is devoted to the protagonists bickering and in-fighting about what to do, and far too little time following through on those conversations.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker 4DX Review




The end is finally here for the Skywalker saga of Star Wars. Now that Disney owns the franchise, there are sure to be plenty of other Star Wars stories to tell, both on and off the big screen. But for many fans, this is the end of a storyline that has continued (more or less) for over four decades. This means the return of several iconic characters (Carrie Fisher is given top billing for a couple of lines and knowing looks), many answered questions (Rey’s identity chief among them), and a lot of satisfying action. The real question for many fans will not be whether or not they will see The Rise of Skywalker, but how many times, and in what format. For those who are looking for a completely immersive experience, there is no better choice than 4DX. Having previously compared the film-viewing experience to the Star Tours ride at Disneyland, it was fitting to finally see that comparison blend into one ride of movie. And for those who have never experienced the format before, The Rise of Skywalker is the ideal first film given how much time and attention has been given to every detail. Few films utilize as many effects as often as this film, which I will discuss in greater individual detail below.

Ready or Not Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Adam Brody, Mark O'Brien, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell, Melanie Scrofano
  • Directors: Tyler Gillett, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin
  • Disc Format: NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English (DTS 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: 
     
     Restricted
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • Release Date: December 3, 2019




         In recent years there has been an increase in the number of films taking place in the mansions of extremely wealthy families, and they are often the villains of the narrative. It wasn’t long ago that the wealthy family of You’re Next suffered a home invasion plot, and we recently saw these same themes with the successful murder-mystery Knives Out. And earlier this year was the horror-comedy, Ready or Not. While Knives Out takes the social commentary a step further by making the outsider protagonist an immigrant and lower class employee of the family, Ready or Not features a beautiful blonde bride who has just married into the family. If it weren’t for a supernatural deal with the devil, one can imagine that Ready or Not’s protagonist might have been welcomed into the villainous circle of wealth, which comes with the implication that it was built upon blood of those outside the family.

Hustlers 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review




         It is a positive thing to see a Hollywood film with an Asian lead, especially when it doesn’t have “Asian” in the title, and somehow even more so when it is in a role of sex appeal. It is also extremely positive that a film can be made to take place predominately in a strip club, but somehow manage to avoid objectification of its stripper characters. It is also extremely relevant to tell this story of hustling during a time when much of the population feels disenfranchised, and likely to enjoy the vicarious thrills of the narrative. And somehow even with all of those positives, Hustlers still felt like a movie about a group of women who decided that they were entitled to money from men simply for their unfortunate possession of a penis.


Where’d You Go, Bernadette Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Billy Crudup, Cate Blanchett
  • Director: Richard Linklater
  • Format: NTSC
  • Language: English (DTS 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: 
     PG-13 
     Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • Release Date: November 26, 2019




        These days I usually have to avoid trailers and other promotional materials for new film releases, as the marketing departments are more interested in selling tickets than preserving the integrity of the storytelling. As a result, I often find plot points and narrative twists spoiled long before I have even entered the theater. However, despite having watched the trailer for Where’d You Go, Bernadette, I still had little idea what to expect from the film. Was it a comedy? Was it a drama? Was it a thriller? It ends up being all of these things, and also none of them.

The Divine Fury Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Park Seo-jun, Ahn Sung-ki, Woo Do-hwan
  • Director: Jason Kim
  • Disc Format: Dolby, Subtitled, Surround Sound, Widescreen
  • Language: Korean (DTS 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Studio: Well Go Usa
  • Release Date: November 19, 2019
  • Run Time: 129 minutes



        The idea of combining action with a demon possession narrative is not exactly original, although this is the first time I have seen an MMA-fighting character punch the demon-possessed in the face as a way of combating the evil. At the same time, although the possession narrative may have added action elements, this never removes the dramatic core of the story in the South Korean horror film, The Divine Fury, which fittingly deals with issues of faith lost and regained. William Friedkin has long said that he considers The Exorcist to be more of a film about faith than horror, and The Divine Fury follows in that tradition. It just adds some enjoyable fight choreography along the way.

4DX Review: Ford v Ferrari



Typically the films I am most excited about experiencing in 4DX are the ones that promise the widest variety of effects. Sure, it is nice to have the seats move, but that is pretty a much a constant through most 4DX experiences. The additional effects like snow, rain, or fog machine only occur at key moments, making their use that much more impactful. With that being said, I was sold on seeing Ford v Ferrari in 4DX after seeing the trailer in the format, and it was able to convince me with the use of seat motion alone. Some of the other effects are used sparingly, but the primary reason for seeing this film in the immersive format of 4DX is for the experience of feeling every gear shift, acceleration, and curve in the road, through the motion of the seats.

Good Boys Blu-ray Review


  • Actors: Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, Brady Noon, Will Forte, Molly Gordon
  • Director: Gene Stupnitsky
  • Writers: Gene Stupnitsky, Lee Eisenberg
  • Producers: Lee Eisenberg, Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen, James Weaver
  • Disc Format: NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), French Canadian (Dolby Digital 5.1), French Canadian (DTS 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (DTS 5.1)
  • Subtitles: French Canadian, Spanish, English
  • Region: Region A/1 
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: 
     
     Restricted
  • Studio: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: November 12, 2019
  • Run Time: 90 minutes



         Good Boys knows how to push the boundaries just enough to guarantee an R-rating and the possibility to offend some of the more conservative audience members, but at its core this is a carefully calculated studio film that makes sure to toe the line without ever coming close to crossing it. In other words, Good Boys likes to play at being shocking and offensive in the same way its protagonists are playing at being grown ups. It is laughable when compared to any truly edgy films. Even studio films of the past have been willing to take more risks, while the main source of edginess in Good Boys is the involvement of young actors.
       

Aquarela Blu-ray Review

  • Director: Victor Kossakovsky
  • Writers: Victor Kossakovsky, Aimara Reques
  • Producers: Aimara Reques, Heino Deckert, Sigrid Dyekjær
  • Disc Format: Subtitled
  • Language: Russian
  • Subtitles: English, French
  • Region: Region A/1 
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: 
     PG 
     Parental Guidance Suggested
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: November 12, 2019
  • Run Time: 90 minutes




        Less of a documentary and more of a soundscape film in the tradition of the Quatsi trilogy, and the other films by Godfrey Reggio and Ron Fricke, Aquarela is a distinct cinematic experience. Sequences are linked thematically by spectacular high definition photography, careful editing, and a mood-inducing score. But while the Quatsi trilogy often considered the impact of human development, Aquarela remains solely interested in the terrifying power and simultaneous beauty of nature.

Cross: Rise of the Villains DVD Review

  • Actors: Brian Green, Danny Trejo, Tom Sizemore, Vinnie Jones
  • Director: Patrick Durham
  • Disc Format: Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: 
     
     Restricted
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: November 12, 2019
  • Run Time: 100 minutes




         For everyone anxiously awaiting the next installment of the Cross superhero film franchise, Cross: Rise of the Villains, it has arrived. Now that I have addressed the parents of family members with supporting roles in the film, I can address everyone else. There is absolutely nothing redeeming about this film beyond the paychecks it provided an assortment of washed up minor celebrities. And there is nothing impressive about the film beyond its ability to attract name actors, all of which sleepwalk through their performances.

The Swan Princess Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Jack Palance, John Cleese, Steven Wright, Sandy Duncan
  • Directors: Richard Rich
  • Disc Format: NTSC, Widescreen
  • Region: Region A/1 
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: 
     
     General Audience
  • Studio: Sony Mod
  • Release Date: October 29, 2019
  • Run Time: 90 minutes






         The Swan Princess may be celebrating its 25th anniversary, but watching the Blu-ray release that coincided with this occasion was my first opportunity to see the film. I probably should have watched it for the first time at a younger age, because The Swan Princess is a film that is far easier to love with nostalgia attached. For me, I had no childhood connection and was simply able to see how dated both the narrative and the animation style truly is.

Hobbs & Shaw Blu-ray Review






         Despite being late additions to the franchise, Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham have easily been the best part of the last few Fast and Furious films, so it must have seemed like a no-brainer to give them their own spin-off film. Unfortunately, even if the other characters have never been my favorite, it is hard to deny that something is missing from this endeavor. Worse yet, what the film does contain feels as though it was formulated by a committee of writers determined to mine and imitate the successful moments from the franchise, rather than attempting something innovative or original. Hollywood releases are merely about the status quo of entertainment standards these days. As long as it makes for a good trailer, nothing else really matters.