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. 

    The Fisher King Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Jeff Bridges, Robin Williams, Mercedes Ruehl, Amanda Plummer
  • Director: Terry Gilliam
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, AC-3, DTS Surround Sound, NTSC, Subtitled, Surround Sound, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection (Direct)
  • Release Date: June 23, 2015
  • Run Time: 138 minutes



  •         The Fisher King was somewhat of a transitional film for director Terry Gilliam, both as his first major Hollywood blockbuster and ironically one of his more simplistic and subdued narratives. For the first time in his filmography, none of the members of Monty Python are a part of the cast, and his iconic style was focused into a thoughtful fantasy grounded in the character’s psychological struggles. Though many of the fairy tale narrative elements are carried over from Gilliam’s heavier fantasy and sci-fi films, they primarily exist in the delusions of our protagonist’s broken psyche. It is an enigma of a film, containing all of the elements necessary for the typical zaniness of a Gilliam comedy-fantasy, but instead unfolds into a thoughtfully sentimental drama.

    The Happiness of the Katakuris Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Kenji Sawada, Keiko Matsuzaka, Shinji Takeda
  • Director: Takashi Miike
  • Format: Blu-ray, Color
  • Language: Japanese
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Arrow Video
  • Release Date: June 16, 2015
  • Run Time: 113 minutes


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            If you’re the type of person who wonders what The Sound of Music would be like if it included a zombie dance sequence, The Happiness of the Katakuris is the answer. The dark comedy with musical numbers and trippy claymation sequences was directed by Takashi Miike in 2001, as a much lighter entry compared to his other films during that period (include 1999’s Audition). And yet, it still has the distinct stamp of the filmmaker, particularly in the moments of macabre. The best comparison I can make is that The Happiness of the Katakuris is to Miike’s filmography what The Trouble with Harry was to Alfred Hitchcock’s.

     

    Pandas: The Journey Home Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Joely Richardson (Narrator)
  • Director: Nicolas Brown
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Color, 3D, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Virgil Films and Entertainment
  • Release Date: June 16, 2015
  • Run Time: 40 minutes


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            Like most Imax short-subject documentaries, Pandas: The Journey Home attempts to make up in spectacle what it lacks in narrative depth. Unfortunately, much of this is lost in the transfer from massive screens to home entertainment. In an effort to compensate for the loss of scope, the high definition presentation of the Blu-ray offers both 2D and 3D versions of the film, with a second disc including the DVD format.

     

    A Master Builder Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Wallace Shawn, Julie Hagerty, Lisa Joyce
  • Director: Jonathan Demme
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, AC-3, DTS Surround Sound, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection (Direct)
  • Release Date: June 16, 2015
  • Run Time: 127 minutes


  • Long-winded and overly theatrical cinematic adaptation

            There is a clear theatricality to all of the cinematic collaborations between Wallace Shawn and André Gregory, most notably with the two classics directed by the former French auteur, Louis Malle (My Dinner with Andre [1981], Vanya on 42nd Street [1994]). This was true of My Dinner with Andre despite being an original concept, mostly because of the single-location and dialogue-heavy screenplay, which featured discussion of the art form from the two playing versions of themselves. Gregory was an established theater director and Shawn also worked heavily in the medium as a playwright and actor (though he was best known for playing character parts onscreen). They then lent these talents to their own stage adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s “Dyadya Vanya,” which became the subject of Malle’s film about a play, adapted for the screen by David Mamet.

     

    My Dinner with Andre Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Wallace Shawn, André Gregory
  • Director: Louis Malle
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection (Direct)
  • Release Date: June 16, 2015
  • Run Time: 111 minutes



  • Two artists question the meaning of existence and their work, while eating quail.

            My Dinner with Andre (1981) is a film about a conversation meant to inspire further discussion from the audience. It is art that discusses the philosophy of art and how life interacts with the process, while encouraging viewers to follow the filmmakers down the rabbit-hole of logic and apply it to their own lives. Deliberately pretentious and decisively contradictory, My Dinner with Andre imitates life by presenting two artists playing themselves in a fabricated sense of realism. In the end, it is only the ideas we can trust to be entirely true, though even these are merely theories meant to be deliberated rather than decided upon. It is somewhat like Michael Winterbottom’s recent food-driven series, The Trip (2010) and The Trip to Italy (2014), without the focus on food or bad jokes and irritating impressions to attempt lightening the mood.

     

    Wild Tales Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Ricardo Darín, Oscar Martinez, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Erica Rivas, Rita Cortese
  • Director: Damián Szifron
  • Format: Blu-ray, Widescreen
  • Language: Spanish
  • Region: All Regions
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: June 16, 2015
  • Run Time: 90 minutes


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    Dark satirical anthology offers six clever stories of revenge.
     

            Wild Tales doesn’t bother setting up its premise or explaining the connection in themes between the six individual short storylines; it begins with a furious energy and never quite lets up the suspenseful feeling that anything could happen until the final frame. The final skit has less impact than those preceding it, but this may have been a calculated choice to provide the audience some sense of closure in an otherwise rage-filled series of set-ups and punch-lines. These six individual stories involve different characters and a variety of situations, but they all share in common a sense of helplessness in the machine of modern society, as well as the catharsis of revenge.

     

    Chappie Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Hugh Jackman, Dev Patel, Sharlto Copley, Ninja
  • Format: Blu-ray, Ultraviolet, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: June 16, 2015
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: December 31, 2018
  • Run Time: 90 minutes



  • Robocop meets Wall-E
     

            Still riding off of his success with District 9, Neill Blomkamp’s latest sci-fi action thriller has many of the same themes and similar visions of a future/alternate world. District 9, Elysium, and Chappie would make an extremely coherent and obvious triple-feature, and it would also show the fast decline of Blomkamp. I can only hope that this isn’t a sign of what he will do to the Alien franchise, which is set as his next project.

     

    Justified: The Complete Final Season DVD Review

         Actors: Timothy Olyphant, Nick Searcy
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Closed-captioned, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: June 2, 2015



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    Based on the short story “Fire in the Hole” by crime novelist Elmore Leonard, “Justified” worked as an adaptation with room for growth. Timothy Olyphant carries the narrative as U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, bringing a familiar gunslinger swagger to the western set-up, though this FX series is far more similar to “Sons of Anarchy” than “Deadwood.” With his personal knowledge of Harlan County, Kentucky, Raylan is perfect candidate to take down a local crime family. This location becomes the primary premise for the series, along with Raylan’s vendetta against local criminal legend, Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins).

     

    The Wonder Years: Season Three DVD Review

         Actors: Fred Savage
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Number of discs: 4
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Time Life Records
  • DVD Release Date: May 26, 2015



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            “The Wonder Years” was one of those shows I thought would never make it to DVD, mostly because of how much great music from the show had copyright issues. Not only has it finally made its way onto DVD for the first time ever, it comes with the originally broadcast music, including Joe Cocker’s memorable rendition of The Beatles’ With a Little Help from My Friends. In total, there are over 50 classic songs included from the original broadcast of season three. But this is a show that is much more than the fantastic soundtrack, though just as much of a classic as the hits that took so long to get copyrighting for.

     

    Welcome to Sweden: The Complete First Season DVD Review

         Actors: Greg Pohler, Josephine Bornebusch, Patrick Duffy
  • Director: Carl Astrand
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: Swedish
  • Dubbed: English
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Entertainment One
  • DVD Release Date: May 19, 2015
  • Run Time: 220 minutes






  •         The IMDB page for “Welcome to Sweden” is filled with user praise, primarily from those who are Swedish or have been exposed to the culture through relationships. If you were to only judge this series based upon the realism of the humor about an American attempting to bond with the family of his Swedish girlfriend along with the fish-out-of-water narrative of adapting to a new culture, it certainly is deserving of some praise. The rest of the show is a complete failure, only possible because of the nepotistic connections of creator and star Greg Poehler, who seems far too reliant on sister Amy Poehler to produce, guest star, and provide a variety of famous cameos that would not have been obtained on the show’s merits alone.

     

    Turbo Fast: Season One DVD Review

         Format: Multiple Formats, Animated, Box set, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • 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
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Studio: Dreamworks Animated
  • DVD Release Date: June 2, 2015
  • Run Time: 599 minutes


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            Turbo was a mildly successful CGI animated film about a snail that fulfills his dream to race against cars when he accidentally absorbs nitrous oxide. This was a quite transparent message to children that they should always follow their dreams regardless of how impossible they seem (even if you need to take enhancement drugs), but this Netflix produced spin-off series leaves the message behind for some good-old-fashioned cartoons. More irreverent than inspirational, “Turbo Fast” is fast-paced comic fun that will keep the attention of most children without irritating the parents too much.