Song of Lahore DVD Review

  • Actors: Wynton Marsalis
  • Director: Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Andy Schocken
  • Format: Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: English, Urdu
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG 
  • Studio: Broadgreen
  • DVD Release Date: May 20, 2016
  • Run Time: 82 minutes








  • Song of Lahore DVD Review

            For the first twenty-minutes of Song of Lahore, I struggled to find an interest in the material. There were too many individuals introduced into the documentary narrative, without any context to explain to me why I should care about each of them. I’ll admit that I even began writing this review in my head, prematurely condemning the filmmakers for a lack of focus. Though these individuals eventually came into focus over the course of the film, it was the ideals and faith which turned the narrative into a cohesively moving piece. Like the jazz music the documentary is centered on, Song of Lahore is about the spirit of the individuals coming together to create, despite adversity and oppression faced in their daily existence.

    The Boy Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Lauren Cohan, Rupert Evans, Jim Norton, Diana Hardcastle, Ben Robson
  • Director: William Brent Bell
  • Writers: Stacey Menear
  • Producers: Jim Wedaa, Roy Lee, Matt Berenson, Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi
  • Format: NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1)
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 
  • Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: May 10, 2016
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: May 2, 2018
  • Run Time: 98 minutes


  • I almost feel as though two reviews are needed for The Boy; one for the final climactic sequence and another for the remainder of the narrative building up to that point. They simply feel so disjointed from each other that it is almost unfair to compare them together. Far too much of the screenplay relies upon a final twist of sorts, but it mostly just made me feel as though I had been cheated. Had this been a short film, I would not have minded, but the feature length narrative forces the audience to invest in far too much of the slow-burn mystery for the end revelation to be such a cheap cop-out.

    Hostile Borders DVD Review

  • Actors: Jesse Garcia, Roberto Urbina, Veronica Sixtos, Julio Cedillo, Jorge Jimenez
  • Director: Michael Dwyer
  • Producers: Alica Dwyer, John Kim
  • Format: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, English, Spanish
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: May 3, 2016
  • Run Time: 84 minutes

  • Hostile Borders DVD Review

            There needs to be some reason for a film to keep my attention, and hating the main character does not suffice. For this reason, I often found Hostile Borders nearly unbearable. Despite ample opportunity within the unique set-up to discuss politics, this inexplicable drama instead forces melodrama and cheap thrills. We spend the entire film with a character that has no apparent opinions beyond her own selfish desires, and even these are often difficult to discern amidst the sparse dialogue given to her and the one-note performance from the lead. Even the most obvious character development you might expect to see is thrown away for mindless action sequences, which are poorly shot and have no gravity since I had no compassion for anyone involved.

    20th Anniversary Independence Day Screening



     


            Hollywood is not yet done pillaging the 1980s for revivals in popular franchises, but last Tuesday was a celebration of an iconic blockbuster from the ‘90s which will see its first sequel 20 years after the event release on the 4th of July weekend in 1996. As director and co-writer Roland Emmerich reminded audience members attending the anniversary screening at The Zanuck Theater on the Fox Studio lot, Independence Day was one of the first event films. Though we have now come to expect large budget blockbusters to hit cinemas every weekend of the summer, this was the trailblazer that helped pave the way for this tradition.

    Emelie Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Sarah Bolger, Joshua Rush
  • Director: Michael Thelin
  • Format: Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:  Not Rated
  • Studio: Dark Sky Films
  • Release Date: May 3, 2016
  • Run Time: 82 minutes


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            Emelie is a slow-burn thriller that is extremely efficient in building tension and suspense, keeping me captivated until the letdown of an uninspired final act. Without the strength of Sarah Bolger’s convincing performance as the title character, a psychotic young woman disguised as an average middle-class family’s new babysitter, Emelie would have been far easier to dismiss before the screenplay’s shortcomings failed the film. Instead, I was so impressed with the set-up of the narrative, it made the lackluster final reveal that much more disappointing. It builds wonderfully for more than half the run-time before reaching a monotone plateau act, ending with a whimper when it should have been a bang.

     

    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


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            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


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            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

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            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


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            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


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            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



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    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



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            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


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            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


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            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

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            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

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            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

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            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.