Love Unto Death/Life is a Bed of Roses Blu-ray Review

    Actors: Fanny Ardant, Ruggero Raimondi, Sabine Azema
  • Director: Alain Resnais
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, NTSC, Surround Sound, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Cohen Media Group
  • Release Date: July 21, 2015
  • Run Time: 192 minutes




  •          This double-feature contains a comedy and a drama that couldn’t be more different in terms of plot and tone, but both are tinged with a similar fantastical style from French filmmaker Alain Resnais. While neither reaches the frustrating ambiguity of a film like Last Year at Marienbad or the weightiness of his wartime films, both have the uncanny sense of experimentation running through them, stylistically as well as within the narrative structure. One never knows where Resnais is headed, however familiar his films feel in their approach.

     

    Kung Fu Killer Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Donnie Yen, Charlie Yeung, Baoqiang Wang
  • Director: Teddy Chen
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Cantonese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Well Go USA
  • Release Date: July 21, 2015
  • Run Time: 100 minutes



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             Blending martial arts with a serial killer narrative, Kung Fu Killer offers brief genre-bending originality in its premise before settling into predictable entertainment. There are some thrills to be found in the execution of the fight scenes, but the narrative offers too few surprises to keep the moments in-between entertaining enough to weave together a satisfying story. Preposterously unrealistic and blandly predictable, Kung Fu Killer features decent action scenes that aren’t quite memorable enough to outweigh the rest of the film’s shortcomings.

     

    Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Kevin James
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Ultraviolet, Closed-captioned, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French
  • Dubbed: French
  • Region: All Regions
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: PG
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: July 14, 2015
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: December 31, 2018


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            I liked Paul Blart: Mall Cop and I’m not ashamed to admit it. It was silly but managed to be sweet, comedically taking a Die Hard plot by inserting a rent-a-cop as the heroic protagonist. With this in mind, I don’t want to say that I had high hopes for the sequel, but certainly didn’t anticipate the quality to drop so significantly from the first film. From the beginning sequence that destroys every aspect of the happy ending we were left with at the close of the last film, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 is illogical and overly silly in its desperate grab for quick laughs.

     

    My Beautiful Laundrette Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Daniel Day-Lewis, Gordon Warnecke, Saeed Jaffrey
  • Director: Stephen Frears
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: Criterion Collection (Direct)
  • Release Date: July 21, 2015
  • Run Time: 97 minutes



  •         My Beautiful Laundrette is a classic kitchen sink 1980s slice-of-life drama from Stephen Frears (Philomena), though the film’s lasting success owes a great deal to the breakout performance given by a young Daniel Day-Lewis. Having made A Room with a View (1985) the same year, critics raved at the actor’s range, though it is clearly his performance in this film which leaves the most lasting impression. It is a bold performance in a movie that is about the acting and the characters far more than the plot, which often meanders without clear direction.

     

    Powers: Season 1 Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Sharlto Copley
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Closed-captioned, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: July 14, 2015
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: December 31, 2018



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            The battle of superheroes at the box office occurs each summer, and occasionally in-between, but this overly-popular genre has recently bled into the world of television as well. Much of this is a way for the largest two comic book franchises to continue their narratives on the small screen, with more and more Marvel and DC shows popping up each year. Simultaneously there has been an increase in original entertainment from some unlikely places. Earlier this year we saw the success of a Netflix comic book series with “Daredevil,” but even the unlikely format of the PlayStation has entered the game with a series based on a graphic novel not belonging to either of the two powerhouse comic contributors.

     

    Goodbye to All That DVD Review

         Actors: Paul Schneider, Melanie Lynskey, Heather Graham
  • Director: Angus MacLachlan
  • 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: July 14, 2015
  • Run Time: 86 minutes



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            Screenwriter Angus MacLachlan (Junebug, Stone) tried his hand at directing his own material with Goodbye to All That, a dramedy about divorce and middle-aged casual dating, with a script that is ironically the weakest element of the film. There are episodic moments of humor and some great performances, but the narrative meanders without direction until reaching a lackluster resolution. The conflict is never fully developed, in favor of scattered moments of random humor instead, so that very little seems to be at stake in the relationships of the few characters that actually matter.

    The Salt of the Earth Blu-ray Review

         Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, AC-3, Dolby, Widescreen, DVD-ROM
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: July 14, 2015
  • Run Time: 90 minutes



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            Although Wim Wenders traces the 40-year career of Sebastião Salgado in The Salt of the Earth, and the documentary is co-directed by the photographer’s son, Ribeiro Salgado, much of the film’s focus becomes about the events covered rather than the life of the artist behind the images. This weighs down the content, especially with many of the tragic social situations around the world that Salgado has chosen as his subjects, but any less depth would have been too superficial for the material. Even 110 minutes doesn’t feel like enough time to adequately examine Salgado’s personal background along with his work, though an uplifting final section does help alleviate the somber tone surrounding much of his earlier photography.

     

    No Way Jose DVD Review

         Actors: Adam Goldberg, Ahna O'Reilly, Gillian Jacobs, Emily Osment
  • Director: Adam Goldberg
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: July 7, 2015
  • Run Time: 98 minutes


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            Audiences have been subjected to an array of male protagonists in arrested development since Judd Apatow’s film career took off, making No Way Jose feel a bit underwhelming and derivative. There are moments of sitcom situation humor which are worthwhile, but the story feels aimless and the characters like watered down rejects from a sub-par Apatow movie. Actor Adam Goldberg tries his hand at directing with a screenplay he co-wrote along with first-time scribe Sarah Kate Levy, but neither have enough experience to save the film from meandering aimlessly and often without as many laughs as desired.

    The Road Within Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Robert Sheehan, Robert Patrick, Dev Patel, Zoë Kravitz
  • Director: Gren Wells
  • Format: Blu-ray, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Well Go USA
  • Release Date: July 7, 2015
  • Run Time: 102 minutes




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             There is a delicate balance needed when creating a comedy that is also about mental illness. A certain amount of respect and realism must be given to the disease and those who actually suffer with it, but it can’t be so much that it weighs down the plot with cumbersome melodrama. All of this pressure seems to rest on the shoulders of the actors in The Road Within, which adopts the now-familiar road trip narrative so often used in independent cinema. With most of the film containing three characters in a car, the success of the story depends a great deal on the success of these actors.

     

    For the Emperor Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Park Sung-Woong, Lee Min-ki, Lee Tae-Im
  • Director: Park Sang-Jun
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Korean
  • Subtitles: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Well Go USA
  • Release Date: July 7, 2015
  • Run Time: 105 minutes


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             Although For the Emperor is clearly a genre picture, built upon sequences of exciting action and hints of exploitation, the film’s narrative is a combination of several familiar structures. While none of the individual pieces are altogether original, together they make for a fast-paced and unpredictable viewing experience. One moment the film feels like a typical gangster film before slipping into noir territory, and eventually slides into a cat-and-mouse revenge story. Much of the mystery in the movie’s direction comes from the ambiguity found in the mostly silent protagonist, who almost seems modeled after the main character in Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive.

     

    Merchants of Doubt Blu-ray Review

        Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Closed-captioned, Widescreen, DVD-ROM
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, Portuguese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Indonesian, Thai, Turkish, Spanish, English
  • Audio Description: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: PG-13 
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: July 7, 2015
  • Run Time: 90 minutes




  •          These days a political documentary doesn’t seem effective unless it has the ability to infuriate the audience, seemingly to cause some type of action to remedy the social maladies examined. While Merchants of Doubt is certainly able to achieve this with its examination of marketing and public relation spin doctors, what is unexpected is the amount of humor and levity inserted into the exasperating subject matter. With Merchants of Doubt, filmmaker Robert Kenner is able to find an impressive balance between historical information, entertainment, and a call to action. The information is not entirely groundbreaking or new, but provides a concise picture for those who were previously unaware to the shady dealings of powerful corporations.

    Ernest Hemingway’s The Killers Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner, Lee Marvin
  • Directors: Robert Siodmak, Don Siegel
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection (Direct)
  • Release Date: July 7, 2015


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            Ernest Hemingway’s short story was adapted into two very different films, though both somehow manage to capture the essence of the narrative while maintaining stylistic individuality from both the source material and each other. First was Robert Siodmak’s classic 1946 black-and-white adaptation, which is now considered an iconic example of the post-World War II film noir genre. Producer Mark Hellinger originally wanted to borrow Warner Brothers director Don Siegel to direct this early version, but he eventually made his own adaptation in 1964 as the first planned made-for-TV movie. While the first is a classic example of the shadowy style that noir is best known for, Siegel’s version became a gritty adaptation in full color and violence in broad daylight. Both have distinctly different approaches to the same material, making for one of the few narratives with both adaptations fittingly paired together in one package.

     

    House of Cards: The Complete Third Season DVD Review

         Actors: Michael Kelly, Kevin Spacey
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Closed-captioned, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, Portuguese, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 U.S. and Canada only
  • Number of discs: 4
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: July 7, 2015




  •         Although “House of Cards” is a show about politics, the structure of the popular Netflix series often has more similarities to a gangster narrative. These crime narratives contain illegal activities which catapult the antihero to a position of fame and/or fortune, which is what we witnessed from Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey) in the first two seasons of the show. At the end of season two Underwood had manipulated, lied, and murdered his way into becoming the President of the United States. If the first two seasons resembled the rise to the top paralleled in the gangster genre, season three is the beginning of the inevitable fall. President Underwood may not go out in a blaze of gunfire like Scarface or Walter White (unless assassination is in his future), but instead becomes a victim of the very system he used to obtain control.

     

    Joe Dirt Blu-ray Review

         Actors: David Spade, Brittany Daniel, Dennis Miller
  • Director: Dennie Gordon
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: July 7, 2015
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: December 31, 2018
  • Run Time: 91 minutes


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            The films to come from Adam Sandler’s company, Happy Madison, have reached a level of such terrible reputation in the last decade that I somehow imagined even the worst productions from years ago to surpass the likes of Jack and Jill or the Grown Ups franchise. I may have been allowed to keep this disillusion going, as I can’t imagine a situation beyond the need to review a newly released Blu-ray that ever would have led me to re-watch Joe Dirt. But because this awful comedy is receiving an unnecessary straight-to-video sequel nearly 15 years after its release, Joe Dirt has been given a high definition release in conjunction, just to remind us how little the franchise needs to be continued.  

     

    The Gunman Blu-ray Review

         Director: Andrew Rona
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Ultraviolet, Color, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby TrueHD)
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Universal Studios
  • Release Date: June 30, 2015
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: May 2, 2016



  •         Sean Penn has a somewhat humorless reputation, having proven himself unable to take jokes told in good fun at award ceremonies and a tendency to align himself with projects with more serious tones. Combine this with his stance in political and social matters and it soon becomes difficult to imagine Penn involved in any type of escapist entertainment. I don’t know if The Gunman was adjusted to fit his sensibility or if the material was simply weighed down by the somberness of the star, but the result is an action thriller that is never as fun as it should be.

     

    Danny Collins Blu-ray Review

         Director: Dan Fogelman
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Ultraviolet, Color, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1)
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Universal Studios
  • Release Date: June 30, 2015
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: May 2, 2016




  •         Danny Collins is a crowd-pleasing film, as it should be. Though the premise of the film may have been loosely based on a real event, writer and first-time director Dan Fogelman approaches the material with a mild genre mentality. This makes for extremely predictable and passively entertaining film, however safe and unimpressive the experience feels. There may be a great film in here, but this feels like the watered down version of that movie.

     

    Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Rinko Kikuchi, Shirley Vendard, Nobuyuki Katsube, David Zellner, Nathan Zellner
  • Director: David Zellner
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby TrueHD 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: ANCHOR BAY
  • Release Date: June 30, 2015
  • Run Time: 104 minutes



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            Bleak doesn’t even begin to describe the narrative of Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter, containing more than a few similarities to the Zellner Brothers’ earlier film, Goliath, about a depressed man searching for his lost cat. Add cultural differences and an increase in mental instability and the main difference between the two films is better production values and a stronger performance by leading actress Rinko Kikuchi. The cinematography looks great and the premise based loosely on a true story is compelling, though I’m afraid I don’t share the same fascination as the Zellners with the lives of solitary depressed individuals.

     

    The Bridge Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Folker Bohnet, Fritz Wepper, Michael Hinz
  • Director: Bernhard Wicki
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: German
  • Subtitles: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection (Direct)
  • Release Date: June 23, 2015
  • Run Time: 103 minutes





  •         You can always distinguish a war film from an anti-war film by the lack of discernible enemies on either side, or even more so when the country of the origin for the protagonists comes off worse than those they are fighting against. The Bridge was really the first post World War II German film to address the topic, and wisely spends most of the film focused on national critique instead of vilifying the invading/opposing troops. As well as being the first German anti-war movie, this 1959 classic was also the first of the country’s post-war films to be widely distributed internationally, even garnering an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.

     

    Timbuktu Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Abel Jafri, Fatoumata Diawara, Ibrahim Ahmed, Toulou Kiki
  • Director: Abderrahmane Sissako
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 
  • Studio: Cohen Media Group
  • Release Date: June 23, 2015
  • Run Time: 97 minutes


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            Timbuktu shares a great deal in common with the Russian film, Leviathan. Both were nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Foreign Language Film, though Timbuktu has the distinction of being Mauritania’s first submission to the Oscars. They are also both films with political undertones, giving views of social injustice. Both are also visually arresting pictures that capture the film’s setting with clarity and beauty. Neither one of these movies won their category, but both certainly deserved the nomination.

     

    Mutant World DVD Review

         Actors: Holly Deveaux, Ashanti, Amber Marshall Kim Coates
  • Director: David Winning
  • Producers: Chad Oakes Michael Frislev
  • Format: NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: SPE
  • DVD Release Date: May 26, 2015
  • Run Time: 82 minutes



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            With a derivative storyline, awful melodramatic script, and lazy special effects, Mutant World was a perfect fit for the Sci-Fi Channel. It just isn’t a good fit for my taste. But anyone who thinks that florescent green eyes are enough of a special effect to justify the title insinuating mutation, and enjoys watching incapable actors suffer through a humorless screenplay full of clichés, Mutant World may be the film for you.