The Walking Dead: The Complete Fifth Season Blu-ray Review

     Actors: Andrew Lincoln, Steven Yuen, Norman Reedus, Seth Gilliam
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Box set, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Number of discs: 5
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: ANCHOR BAY
  • Release Date: August 25, 2015
  • Run Time: 600 minutes



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             What is there to say about “The Walking Dead” that hasn’t already been said. This cultural television phenomenon arrived with the successful revival of the zombie horror film, though it has outlasted the peak popularity of its cinematic counterpart. The post-apocalyptic television show has becomes something much more than just the usual horror trope, elevating the genre to something deeply profound and emotionally resonate. Not only is this series far better than nearly every zombie film in recent years, it is easily one of the best shows on television.

     

    Wolf Warrior Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Jacky Wu, Scott Adkins, Kevin Lee
  • Director: Jacky Wu
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Cantonese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Well Go USA
  • Release Date: September 1, 2015
  • Run Time: 90 minutes


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             Wolf Warrior is the Chinese equivalent of the American military action film, Act of Valor; it is well shot, filled with exciting action, with a plot so simplistic it is nearly nonexistent, and a tone so patriotic that it borders on propaganda. If you can excuse the silliness of the story or the transparency of the movie’s national pride, there is still some above average action to enjoy. In fact, I would say that this is one of the more exciting Chinese action films I have seen recently, though the emphasis remains on firepower rather than martial arts.

     

    Lost After Dark Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Robert Patrick, David Lipper, Alexander Calvert
  • Director: Ian Kessner
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Language: English (Dolby TrueHD 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: ANCHOR BAY
  • Release Date: September 1, 2015
  • Run Time: 85 minutes



  •          Lost after Dark is not only a slasher film with a plot resembling the popular horror sub-genre of the 1980s, it aspires to be mistaken as one of these forgotten B-films. The narrative takes place in the ‘80s, but more importantly is the faux grindhouse style that attempts to recreate the look of a slasher seen at the drive-in. This means intentional screen static, scenes missing, and a series of practical effects. While the film is never less than entertaining, there is not enough commitment to this idea for Lost After Dark to feel like a success. Large sections of the film seem to completely forget about the faux grindhouse style, and overall it just feels like a watered down attempt at doing was already accomplished by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez with their double-feature film, Grindhouse.   

     

    The Last Dragon Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Faith Prince, Taimak, Vanity
  • Director: Michael Schultz
  • Producer: Rupert Hitzig
  • Format: Blu-ray, Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, Portuguese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Thai, English, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Portuguese, Spanish
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: August 25, 2015
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: December 31, 2018
  • Run Time: 108 minutes


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             The martial arts movie meets blaxploitation films in this campy cult classic from the mid-1980s, brought to life in this 30th Anniversary high definition Blu-ray release. I’m still unclear on whether Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon is meant to be parody or homage to classic kung-fu films, but it lives comfortably in the pop culture of the ‘80s, complete with absurdly colorful and over-the-top wardrobe and a soundtrack which often takes over the narrative like an extended music video. Whether you love it or laugh at it, fans of all types can appreciate this forgotten cult action-comedy in all its remastered glory, not to mention the new special features.

     

    Citizenfour Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Edward Snowden
  • Director: Laura Poitras
  • Format: Blu-ray, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Starz / Anchor Bay
  • Release Date: August 25, 2015
  • Run Time: 114 minutes



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             I am not at all surprised by the fact that Citizenfour was the winner of Best Documentary Feature at the 2014 Academy Awards, mostly because of how much the film and filmmaker became a part of the story. This is not a documentary which tells us what happened, but instead was in the room being created as it happened. With that being said, I would be lying if I said that I found endless scenes of intelligent people talking in hotel rooms and clicking away on computers half as exciting as the hype for this film claimed. This feels like a film that was praised for the filmmaker’s involvement in the story and what it stood for far more than the actual construction or presentation of the material itself. Others may disagree (including the Academy, apparently), but I found the actual filmmaking to be frustrating and dull compared to the tenseness of the subject.

     

    Welcome to New York Blu-ray Review

          Actors: Gerard Depardieu, Jacqueline Bisset, Paul Hipp
  • Director: Abel Ferrara
  • Format: Blu-ray, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • Release Date: August 25, 2015
  • Run Time: 108 minutes


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             Though there have been name changes and we are told several times that the characters within Abel Ferrara’s Welcome to New York are entirely fictional, the very emphasis on this clarification makes it clear that the filmmaker wants you to know where the narrative inspiration was derived from. Much of the film’s power comes from the reality that the events are based on a widely covered international story about former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, whose escape from charges of sexual assault against a hotel maid became a clear allegory for the entitlement mentality of the rich and powerful. Ferrara achieves this without glorifying or condemning the actions of its protagonist, making for a film without bias, but which also feels void of any relevant commentary.

     

    The Riot Club DVD Review

         Actors: Sam Claflin, Max Irons
  • Director: Lone Scherfig
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • DVD Release Date: August 18, 2015
  • Run Time: 107 minutes


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             The Riot Club is about an elite group of wealthy and privileged students in a secret society at Cambridge University, providing for audiences the perfect subjects to loathe as symbols of the entitled upper class. The division of class is not a new subject for British cinema, but The Riot Club lacks the dark humor and satire from the days of classic Ealing comedies such as Robert Hamer’s Kind Hearts and Coronets. Even much of the humor from the play by Laura Wade, “Posh,” which she adapted into the film’s screenplay, is missing in favor of tension and drama, leaving anger as the audience’s default emotion to the events.

     

    5 to 7 DVD Review

         Actors: Anton Yelchin, Bérénice Marlohe
  • Director: Victor Levin
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • DVD Release Date: August 18, 2015
  • Run Time: 97 minutes




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             As the narrative within 5 to 7 began to unfold, I found myself marveling at the various aspects of filmmaking: the dialogue written by Victor Levin was snappy and clever, which he was able to direct magnificently, utilizing the talent of his actors in a way that made the casting seem inspired. Initially, the only thing I did not love about Levin’s film was the plot. I have never been completely sold on the idealized passion of cinematic adultery, and found myself cringing as the two main characters made their way to the bedroom. It was also in the bedroom that 5 to 7 eventually won me over, choosing an old fashioned glamorous approach to the representation of romance over the indulgence of raw carnal desire. I can’t quite understand how a film which hardly shows the romantic leads in anything less than undergarments was given an R-rating, because it is the intentionally mild sentimentality which causes the film to stand apart from most modern romance.

     

    Rookie Blue: Season Five, Volume One DVD Review

         Actors: Missy Peregrym, Gregory Smith, Ben Bass
  • Director: David Wellington
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Entertainment One
  • DVD Release Date: August 18, 2015
  • Run Time: 473 minutes


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             It has been done before, and there isn’t a whole lot new in this Canadian-made cop show aside from the blending of soap opera elements which make it feel like “Grey’s Anatomy” with guns. There is less that is realistic within the cop drama involving highly attractive professionals who enjoy bed-hopping between catching crooks, but somehow that seems to be the point. It is less about gritty realism and more about the melodrama. And somehow that has worked well enough to last five seasons and counting, even if the narratives get increasingly unbelievable and contrived.

     

    Inner Demons DVD Review

         Actors: Lara Vosburgh, Morgan McClellan, Brian Flaherty
  • Director: Seth Grossman
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • DVD Release Date: August 4, 2015
  • Run Time: 83 minutes



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            Boasting a mildly unique premise and one noteworthy breakout performance from Israeli actress and model, Lara Vosburgh, Inner Demons is an otherwise all-too-familiar found footage horror film without much inspiration or originality beneath the surface. Ten years ago with a better budget this film may have been slightly relevant, but now it is just another in an endless onslaught of both bad exorcism movies and cheaply made found footage horror. This low budget independent thriller doesn’t even have the distinction of being the first or second of the found footage exorcism films, and the correlation between drug addiction within the narrative is not nearly as profoundly creative as the filmmakers seem to believe.

     

    Match DVD Review

        Actors: Patrick Stewart, Matthew Lillard, Carla Gugino
  • Director: Stephen Belber
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • DVD Release Date: August 11, 2015
  • Run Time: 92 minutes


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            With three people in a small apartment carrying a conversation for a majority of its running time, it is easy to see that Match is adapted from a Tony Award-nominated play. Stephen Belber adapted his own material with slight adjustments, but even with the advantages of the camera’s intimacy this feels better suited for the stage. Something about the convenient contrivances of the melodrama fits with the fallacies of stage that already demand a certain suspension of disbelief from its audience members, whereas each narrative twist on film feels more expected than the last. The saving grace of the material comes in the form of a dedicated cast, though it is Patrick Stewart’s showy performance that overshadows the rest.

     

    Police Story: Lockdown Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Jackie Chan, Ye Liu
  • Director: Ding Sheng
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Cantonese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Well Go USA
  • Release Date: August 11, 2015
  • Run Time: 110 minutes



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            American audiences may have first taken notice of Jackie Chan with Rumble in the Bronx (1995), but he had already established his signature style with the highly successful Police Story franchise. While it is not surprising to see Chan return to his most lucrative franchise the same way that Bruce Willis seems to keep dying hard, Sylvester Stallone repeatedly returns as either Rambo or Rocky, and Arnold Schwarzenegger will always “be back” for another Terminator film, the title of Police Story: Lockdown is somewhat misleading. Released as Police Story 2013 in China, this latest installment does not feature Chan playing the Inspector Chan from the Police Story franchise. In fact, the only thing that this film shares in common with the martial arts actor’s most lucrative film series is the title. Not only the character name has changed, but also the style in which the story is told and the impact of the film’s action sequences.

     

    True Story Blu-ray Review

         Actors: James Franco, Ethan Suplee, Jonah Hill
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • 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: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • Release Date: August 4, 2015
  • Run Time: 100 minutes


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            It may have been an odd choice to cast two leads better known for their comedic connections in film, but the true crime of True Story is the feeling that both actors are much better than their performances in these roles. Jonah Hill has tackled dramatic roles with critical praise in recent history, but doesn’t seem quite capable of making this unlikable protagonist worth watching for the brief running time. And James Franco is merely sleepwalking through his performance, nearly as bored as the audience waiting for the twists and turns of suspense which never arrive. 

     

    Hell on Wheels: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Anson Mount, Common, Jennifer Ferrin
  • Director: David Von Ancken
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Number of discs: 4
  • Studio: Entertainment One
  • Release Date: August 11, 2015
  • Run Time: 559 minutes



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            The longer that “Hell on Wheels” is on air, the more bleak its narrative seems. Since the death of a major character in season two, it was clear that the AMC series was not afraid to switch things up from season to season, and the fourth brings about some of the show’s biggest changes. There are new characters arriving as old ones depart, typically in the most violent ways imaginable. The impact is even greater now that the show has been on for several seasons, making the loss of beloved characters that much more devastating.

     

    Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Winston Chao, Kun Chen, Li Bingbing
  • Directors: Peter Pau, Tianyu Zhao
  • Format: Blu-ray, Widescreen
  • Language: Cantonese
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Well Go USA
  • Release Date: August 4, 2015
  • Run Time: 118 minutes



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            I imagine that the large scale Chinese blockbuster, Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal, to be comparable to the recent Hollywood attempts at the Hercules mythology, in terms of new fantasy films cashing in on classic narratives. Directors Peter Pau and Tianyu Zhao take on the legend of Zhong Kui (Kun Chen), an anti-hero who is a pawn in the battle between Heaven and Hell, mostly occurring on Earth. The fantasy is completed with a star-crossed-lovers subplot, with the title character Snow Girl (Bingbing Li) as the object of Zhong Kui’s desire. All of this begs for large scale adaptation, offering plenty of opportunity for special effects spectacle. Unfortunately, we are left with bad CGI that looks like all of the filler movies in video games.

    The Salvation Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Mikael Persbrandt
  • Director: Kristian Levring
  • Format: Blu-ray, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • Release Date: August 4, 2015
  • Run Time: 92 minutes




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            The Salvation has the traditional plot of an American western, from setting to storyline, except that it was made with the sensibility and tone of its Danish filmmakers. There is a weightiness to the revenge narrative that feels distinctly Scandinavian, despite the classic Wild West setting, allowing for unrelenting bleak content to overpower some of the crowd-pleasing spectacle. Nothing about the actual story may be altogether original, but the approach is a wonderful blend of distinct cultural cinemas.

     

    Black & White: The Dawn of Assault Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Mark Chao, Ken Lin
  • Director: Yueh-Hsun Tsai
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: Cantonese
  • Subtitles: Cantonese
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Shout! Factory
  • Release Date: August 4, 2015
  • Run Time: 142 minutes



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            The Taiwanese buddy cop TV series “Black & White” ran for a successful season in 2009, followed by this 2012 prequel film and a subsequent sequel. Although Black & White: Dawn of Assault is the first to be made available in the States, no previous knowledge of the franchise is entirely necessary for its enjoyment. At its core, this is simply a blockbuster popcorn film that doesn’t require a great deal of thought, but is heavily rewarding in terms of spectacle. The only reason the previously established television series is significant has to do with the amount of chemistry that the cast already has with each other.

    Into the Grizzly Maze DVD Review

         Actors: James Marsden, Billy Bob Thorton, Thomas Jane
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, French
  • Dubbed: French
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: August 4, 2015
  • Run Time: 90 minutes

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             Throw in a few additional scenes of unnecessary objectification of women with cheaper CGI bear attacks and this is exactly the type of low budget fare you might expect to find on the same shelf as many Asylum productions or Syfy Channel releases. The screenplay lacks any originality and an over-use of stock footage makes it clear that the actors were never anywhere near live bears, and yet Into the Grizzly Maze still manages to stand above the rest thanks to a surprisingly stacked cast. Despite the limited material, this cast keeps a silly plot and amateur filmmaking far more entertaining than it deserves, proving why a professional actor is an invaluable commodity. This is true even in the films that are typically more interested in the carnage of its characters than their believability. I’m not exactly certain how it happened that this movie got such an undeservingly seasoned cast, but it ends up being the only saving grace in the filmmaking process.

    Lake Placid Vs Anaconda DVD Review

         Actors: Robert Englund, Yancy Butler, Nigel Barber
  • Director: A.B. Stone
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: August 4, 2015
  • Run Time: 92 minutes

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    When there have already been far too many sequels in a franchise, the next logical step is to combine it with another overdone film series. Even in larger budget films, this has been attempted over enough time, which is how we ended up with Alien vs. Predator and Freddy vs. Jason. But despite Robert Englund in a supporting role, the Syfy Channel original film, Lake Placid vs. Anaconda, comes nowhere close to the quality of these theatrical releases. Instead, this just looks like every other TV movie from this station, cheaply made in another country for the lowest possible budget.

     

    3 Hearts Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Benoit Poelvoorde, Catherine Deneuve, Charlotte Gainsbourg
  • Director: Benoit Jacquot
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, NTSC, Surround Sound, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 
  • Studio: Cohen Media Group
  • Release Date: July 28, 2015
  • Run Time: 108 minutes




  •          3 Hearts is a tragic romance that is approached stylistically as more of a thriller by filmmaker Benoit Jacquot (Farewell My Queen), with highly charged performances and an ominous score by Bruno Coulais. There is no real danger to the health or safety of these characters, yet we feel that their very lives are at stake with the gravity of their romantic passions looming over each decision. Melodrama takes the main stage for much of this narrative, though it is a film which ultimately depends upon the moments of romance as the glue that holds together the series of unlikely coincidences that follow.