Queen of Earth DVD Review

    Actors: Elisabeth Moss, Patrick Fugit, Katherine Waterston
  • Director: Alex Ross Perry
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: MPI Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: December 22, 2015
  • Run Time: 90 minutes




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            There are things about Queen of Earth that I appreciated, such as the narrative resemblance to psychological thrillers such as Ingmar Bergman’s Persona or Roman Polanski’s Repulsion and (to a lesser degree) Rosemary’s Baby. The trailer even has a stylistic resemblance to films in this sub-genre from the 1970s, despite the style being much more subdued in the actual film. Then there are aspects of the relationships in Queen of Earth that I was unable to appreciate, if only for the simple fact that I belong to the wrong gender.

     

    Jenny’s Wedding DVD Review

         Actors: Katherine Heigl, Alexis Bledel, Tom Wilkinson
  • Director: Mary Agnes Donoghue
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: MPI Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: December 29, 2015
  • Run Time: 94 minutes

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            Jenny’s Wedding is more competently made than the screenplay from writer/director Mary Agnes Donoghue deserves, thanks entirely to a cast willing to commit to outdated material always on the verge of turning into a film you would see on the Hallmark Channel. The basic structure of the film is all melodrama, enhancing the singular note of the movie with endless montages which utilize pop songs to convey the emotions the filmmaking is incapable of, but the tone of the movie takes on the air of a romantic comedy. The result is a breezy piece of bubblegum LGBT propaganda with a stacked cast.

    Time Out of Mind Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Richard Gere, Jena Malone
  • Director: Oren Moverman
  • Format: Blu-ray, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • Release Date: December 15, 2015
  • Run Time: 121 minutes



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            Narratively speaking, Time Out of Mind is so simplistic that I was certain the concept would never hold for the two-hour running-time. Then I began to notice the stylistic choices filmmaker Oren Moverman was making and realized that this is a film that needs to take its time for the approach to be effective. It is also a story made for the cinematic art form, at least according to Siegfried Kracauer’s list of the medium’s unique functions in his essential work, Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality.

     

    Slow Learners DVD Review

         Actors: Sarah Burns, Adam Pally
  • Directors: Don Argott, Sheena M. Joyce
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: MPI Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: December 15, 2015
  • Run Time: 97 minutes


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            Slow Learners opens with a couple of scenes that are brilliantly executed, and also set up the oddball tone of the comedy fittingly. After about 1/3 of the unique narrative about two socially inept school teachers with atrocious dating skills, the story shifts into a series of predictable and cliché plot structures. Even worse than this predictability, however, are the scenes in which the improvisational comedy made me stop laughing and feel embarrassed for the actors. However uneven the overall experience of Slow Learners may be, there are enough funny scenes to make enduring the bad ones worthwhile.

     

    Mistress America Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke
  • Director: Noah Baumbach
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (DTS 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: 20TH CENTURY FOX
  • Release Date: December 1, 2015
  • Run Time: 86 minutes


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            I have struggled with much of Noah Baumbach’s filmmaking, if only because of his tendency to focus on narratives with extremely flawed characters. In some cases, this suits the stories being told. It would be difficult to show the strain of a divorce without exposing the way that it can bring out the worst in the family being torn apart, as he did with The Squid and the Whale. But even in that film the problem I had with the characters had little to do with the mistakes that they made, but rather, the superiority and condescension used as they refused to admit fault in themselves. From that film on, Baumbach has had a fascination with pretentious and unlikable leading characters, a trend which only seemed to increase as he began collaborating with actress Greta Gerwig, who rose into relevance through a movement of film centered around performances so intentionally raw that they are often more annoying than amusing.

     

    You Can’t Take It With You Blu-ray Review

    Actors: Mischa Auer, Ann Miller, Spring Byington, Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore
  • Director: Frank Capra
  • Producer: Frank Capra
  • Format: Blu-ray, Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, Portuguese, Czech, German, Hindi, Finnish, Polish, Swedish, Arabic, Italian, Korean, Dutch, Hebrew, Norwegian, Hungarian, English, Spanish, Turkish, Greek, Danish, Japanese
  • Dubbed: French, German, Italian, Spanish
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: December 8, 2015
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: December 31, 2018
  • Run Time: 126 minutes


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            Frank Capra is often credited with making the first screwball comedy with It Happened One Night in 1934, and in 1938 he perfected it by adapting the popular stage play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart into an unforgettable American film classic. You Can’t Take It With You is significant for many reasons, including a breakout performance from James Stewart that would lead to collaborations with the director in some of his most beloved classics (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, It’s a Wonderful Life). But beyond historical significance is a simple story of universal appeal, one which had the heartfelt sincerity and optimism that was instantly recognizable in a Capra film. The story may be Kaufman and Hart’s, down to the dialogue transferred over from the play, but Capra embraced it as his own and created a cinematic collaboration as timeless today as it was nearly 80-years ago.

     

    Partisan Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Vincent Cassel, Nigel Barber, Jeremy Chabriel
  • Director: Ariel Kleiman
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, THX, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Well Go USA
  • Release Date: December 8, 2015
  • Run Time: 97 minutes


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            Partisan sets up its plot with a certain level of ambiguity and mystery, which had me hooked from the beginning. I can always respect a film that doesn’t spoon-feed its audience members, but unfortunately much of the intrigue set up was lost within director Ariel Kleiman’s lack of interest. Instead, this remains a film about the characters, though Kleiman fails to see how establishing the world in which they live has an impact on the characters within it. Partisan contains impressive performances, though there is little to relate to when we are given so little understanding of where they come from.

    Speedy Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Harold Lloyd, Babe Ruth
  • Director: Ted Wilde
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection (Direct)
  •  Release Date: December 8, 2015
  • Run Time: 85 minutes


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             Borrowing the name given to his “Glasses Character” in one of his earlier classics, The Freshman, Harold Lloyd returned to this role for his final silent performance in Speedy (1928). As well as showcasing some of the best gags in his career, Speedy gave audiences a ticket to the fast-paced lifestyle of New York City. At the time it was a pleasantly comedic depiction of the chaotic hustle and bustle of ‘The Roaring 20s’ in Manhattan, though it now serves as a magnificent historical record for those too young to remember.

     

    Wolf Totem Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Ba Sen, Zha Bu, Shaofeng Feng, Shawn Dou
  • Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud
  • Producers: Xavier Castano, William Kong
  • Format: Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish, English
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: December 15, 2015
  • Run Time: 122 minutes

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            I must admit, I entered into Wolf Totem with the wrong expectations, mistakenly thinking the narrative was similar to the nature films director Jean-Jacques Annaud has done in the past, such as The Bear or Two Brothers. Despite the wolves being the most sympathetic characters in Wolf Totem, they are not the protagonists, though the bigger difference lies in the treatment of the animals. The sheer relentlessness of the brutality against nature and the title animal makes Wolf Totem a near impossible endurance test for animal lovers. The film is presented in both 2D and 3D on the Blu-ray, though there are far too many scenes I would prefer to have not seen at all, much less in 3D.

     

    Minions Blu-ray Review

          Actors: Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud, Steve Carell
  • Director: Pierre Coffin, Kyle Balda
  • Format: Animated, 3D, Widescreen, Digital_copy
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby TrueHD), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish, English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated: PG
  • Studio: Universal Studios
  • Release Date: December 8, 2015
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: May 2, 2016


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            Despicable Me was a clever concept in its decision to make a villain the protagonist, and it got away with this by making the narrative about his inevitable redemption. Minions, the off-shoot prequel about the oddball lackeys that do Gru’s bidding, succeeds in having their villainous tendencies (or admiration for those who have them) because of their utter incompetence. In an opening sequence which the rest of the film has a hard time following, we are given the origin story of the Minions throughout all of history. While simultaneously showing their propensity to follow the most despicable creature around, this introduction allows for a series of amusing gags in their clumsy inability to keep them alive.

     

    The Hunting Ground DVD Review

          Actors: Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering, Diane Rosenfeld
  • Director: Kirby Dick
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Studio: ANCHOR BAY
  • DVD Release Date: December 1, 2015
  • Run Time: 104 minutes



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            Documentaries are so rarely unbiased that we have sadly come to see the examination of facts on screen as little more than propaganda. This is not to say that there isn’t truth in the information being provided audiences, but it is no longer enough to simply accept everything you are told in a non-fiction film. Most views expressed can be countered by the opposition, but this becomes more impactful when the facts provided in a documentary come into question. It is one thing to share one side of an argument, but it is another to adjust the facts so that your side has more strength. The reality is that many of the truths in The Hunting Ground have been overshadowed by the instances in the documentary where facts are stretched and bent to support the cause.

     

    Goodnight Mommy Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Susanna Wuest, Elias Schwarz, Lukas Schwarz
  • Director: Severin Fiala, Veronika Frank
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: ANCHOR BAY
  • Release Date: December 1, 2015
  • Run Time: 99 minutes


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            It is clear about halfway through Goodnight Mommy that the Austrian horror film will make a perfect companion film to either Michael Haneke’s Funny Games or Under the Skin, though the obviousness of which would be more fitting depends on the effectiveness of the film’s red herring on each viewer. Filmmakers Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala lay out clues to figure out the reality of the film’s narrative early on, but often pairs them with enough evidence to counter with an alternate possibility. This makes the film far less about a final twist and much more about the uncertainty and doubt following the most likely answer to the central question.

     

    Santa’s Little Helper DVD Review

         Actors: Mike "The Miz" Mizanin, AnnaLynne McCord, Eric Keenleyside
  • Directors: Gil Junger
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: 20TH CENTURY FOX
  • DVD Release Date: November 17, 2015
  • Run Time: 91 minutes


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            WWE Studios continues their awkward transition from scripted wrestling melodrama to scripted cinematic melodrama with the latest of their family productions. Santa’s Little Helper stars their regular performer, Mike “The Miz” Mizanin (Can I take a moment to point out the redundancy of including someone’s nickname when it is already an abbreviation of the last name; it ends up just sounding like an echo), along with Paige’s film debut. Despite having two wrestlers in the cast, the film refrains from blatant WWE promoting, and the storyline requires a surprisingly minimal amount of fighting between them.

     

    Ricki and the Flash Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Ben Platt, Rick Springfield, Sebastian Stan, Audra McDonald, Kevin Kline
  • Director: Jonathan Demme
  • Producers: Marc Platt, Gary Goetzman, Diablo Cody, Mason Novick
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Ultraviolet, AC-3, Dolby, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, Portuguese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Indonesian, Cantonese, Thai, Spanish, English
  • Dubbed: French, Portuguese, Thai, Spanish
  • Audio Description: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Rated: PG-13 
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: November 24, 2015
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: December 31, 2018
  • Run Time: 101 minutes



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            It is truly a sad state of affairs when the most impressive acting in a film featuring Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline is a performance from former rock icon, Rick Springfield. Not since Will Smith and his obnoxious pseudo-celebrity child collaborated with M. Night Shyamalan to make the post-apocalyptic disaster of a film, After Earth, has an actor been so horribly blinded by the urge to work with their own undeserving offspring. This is the kind of performance that would kill most careers, though the lack of famous actresses her age allows Streep the freedom to make a Mamma Mia every few years, without repercussion. As much as Streep’s growling and guttural performance as an aging wannabe rock star may be like nails on a chalkboard to anyone who has ever actually held a guitar, it is nowhere near as obnoxious as the obviously nepotistic casting of her real-life daughter, Mamie Gummer. And all of this is sloppily held together by a lazy and reductive screenplay from Hollywood’s favorite stripper.  

    Assassination Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Gianna Jun
  • Directors: Choi Dong-hoon
  • Format: Blu-ray, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, THX, Widescreen
  • Language: Korean
  • Subtitles: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Well Go USA
  • Release Date: December 1, 2015
  • Run Time: 139 minutes


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            Assassination is a historical action film, a period ensemble blockbuster with many twists and turns in the narrative and enough characters and tonal shifts to force audiences to work for their entertainment. This doesn’t make for a bad film, just one that requires a bit more attention to fully appreciate the spectacle. Although I am always an advocate for appreciation of international cinema, this is also a film likely to carry additional relevance for those who have lived through (or are at least familiar with) Korean history.

    Jimmy’s Hall Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Aisling Franciosi, Karl Geary, Conor McDermottroe, Denise Gough, Mikel Murfi
  • Director: Ken Loach
  • Producers: Rebecca O'Brien
  • Format: Blu-ray, AC-3, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, English
  • Dubbed: French
  • Audio Description: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: November 17, 2015
  • Run Time: 109 minutes

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            Some films based on a true story are banking on the unbelievable nature of the narrative, whereas Jimmy’s Hall has a screenplay that never hits an unexpected note. Even at the peak of the story’s excitement, the volume of the action remains subdued enough to remain tied to realism above all else. While this may make for accurate storytelling, it does little for the excitement of the entertainment. Though director Ken Loach is able to accurately capture the feel of the period and place in Jimmy’s Hall, this attention to detail does little to improve the thin narrative and underdeveloped characters in Paul Laverty’s screenplay.

     

    Bad Boys I & II: 20th Anniversary Collection Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Martin Lawrence, Will Smith
  • Format: Blu-ray, AC-3, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Subtitles: Spanish
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: November 10, 2015
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: December 31, 2018


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            What is most remarkable to me watching Bad Boys again, 20 years after its initial release, is how early in his career Michael Bay began the bad habits we now associate with his overblown style of filmmaking. Most disturbing among the similarities Bad Boys shares with his future films is the blatant objectification of Téa Leoni, who looks unbelievably similar to Megan Fox in The Transformers. The manner with which Bay poses his actresses and allows his camera to leer at them is prime example of the “male gaze,” which is as much his signature as large explosions are.

     

    The Great American Dream Machine Review

         Actors: Marshall Efron, Andy Rooney, Chevy Chase, Charles Grodin, Albert Brooks
  • Director: Peter Lance
  • Format: Multiple Formats, NTSC, THX
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 4
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Entertainment One
  • DVD Release Date: October 20, 2015
  • Run Time: 650 minutes


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            PBS has a longstanding tradition of blending education with entertainment and the arts, and with the early satirical sketch show, “The Great American Dream Machine,” they brought politic discourse into the mix during a time it was most needed. When the series began its short-lived run in 1971, Americans were wrestling with a number of political issues, from the Vietnam War to environmental conservation. “The Great American Dream Machine” provided an outlet for a humorous approach to the conversation, only able to exist because of the unique alternative that PBS provided to traditional commercial networks.

    Inside Out Blu-ray Review

    Actors: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Richard Kind, Bill Hader, Lewis Black
  • Director: Pete Docter
  • Writers: Story By Pete Docter & Ronnie del Carmen, Screenplay By Meg LeFauve & Josh Cooley And Pete D, Additional Dialogue By Amy Poehler & Bill Hader
  • Format: Blu-ray, AC-3, Animated, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen, Digital_copy
  • Language: English, Spanish, French
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated: PG
  • Studio: Walt Disney Studios
  • Release Date: November 3, 2015



  •          I have always had a difficult time choosing a favorite Pixar film. I end up undecided, bouncing back and forth between several I have equal appreciation of while ignoring the choices I really want to make because of their unevenness. The answer I always want to give is either Up or Wall-E, but only for the realism in their opening sequences. Both of these films also lose me when the grounded style of the beginning is interrupted by a jarring return to a sillier, more cartoonish style. Though Inside Out also utilizes this fantastical style, it somehow also manages to remain as emotionally and intellectually grounded as those opening sequences I love, and with consistency throughout the entire running time. Previously, Pixar has proved more than capable of making clever films, but Inside Out is their most intellectually rewarding endeavor to date. This film provides lessons for young children, with just as many rewards for their parents to appreciate.  

     

    The Stanford Experiment DVD Review

         Actors: Billy Crudup, Ezra Miller, Tye Sheridan
  • Director: Kyle Patrick Alvarez
  • 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: November 17, 2015
  • Run Time: 122 minutes


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            The Stanford Prison Experiment is consistently compelling, a fascinating telling of true events grounded by believable performances and a relentlessly tense tone. The entire experience of watching the film was riveting, despite a disappointing lack of commentary on the events. We are drawn in by the realism of Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s direction and the dedicated performances from the solid ensemble cast, but the screenplay adapted by Tim Talbott from Dr. Phillip Zimbardo’s book fails to contextualize the events. When the experiment from the film’s title was completed, it was followed by endless interviews and studies to understand the events; the audience of The Stanford Prison Experiment is merely given a few minutes to investigate these ideas as the credits roll. 

     

    Two Men in Town Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Alain Delon, Gerard Depardieu, Jean Gabin
  • Director: Jose Gioveanni
  • Format: Blu-ray, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Dubbed: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Cohen Media Group
  • Release Date: November 10, 2015
  • Run Time: 99 minutes


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            Labeling Two Men in Town as a crime film is somewhat deceptive, although there are crimes committed and the main character is a recently paroled criminal. The criminal activity we see if carried out by characters other than the protagonist, who spends a majority of the film attempting to earn redemption for his past. This is a drama about the difficulty of rehabilitation, though it does so with the narrative manipulation of a particularly villainous police officer. Created as a strong statement against the death penalty in France (which would be abolished eight years after this film’s release), Two Men in Town is a message movie which manipulates the audience’s emotions a bit too much to stand up beyond its political agenda.   

     

    Code Unknown Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Juliette Binoche, Thierry Neuvic, Luminita Gheorghiu
  • Director: Michael Haneke
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, AC-3, DTS Surround Sound, Subtitled, Surround Sound, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • Release Date: November 10, 2015
  • Run Time: 117 minutes


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            Code Unknown often feels more like a film by Krzysztof Kieślowski than Michael Haneke’s follow-up to Funny Games (1997), and I say this with the highest regard. It is not just that Code Unknown stars Juliette Binoche, who starred in one of the films in Kieślowski’s Three Colors trilogy, but also a similarity in theme and style. Though the narrative construct is different, this film continues discussion of social themes often found in Kieślowski’s work, such as Blind Chance (1981). And like much of Kieślowski’s work, there is an ambiguity to Haneke’s narrative, forcing the audience to participate in the deconstruction of its meaning.

     

    The Golden Cane Warrior Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Christine Hakim, Tara Basro, Nicholas Saputra
  • Director: Ifa Isfansyah
  • Format: Blu-ray, Dolby, NTSC, THX, Widescreen
  • Language: Indonesian
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Well Go USA
  • Release Date: November 3, 2015
  • Run Time: 111 minutes


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            The Indonesian film industry has seen a boom in recent years, primarily due to the success of a few influential films in the international marketplace. This includes the financial success of the action franchise which began in 2011 with The Raid (the sequel was funded in part by selling the rights for a Hollywood remake currently in the works), as well as the critical reception to Indonesian-based documentaries, The Act of Killing (2012) and The Look of Silence (2014). But each of these movies, however successfully they worked within the Indonesian film industry, was directed by foreign filmmakers. The Golden Cane Warrior, on the other hand, proves that an Indonesian director can also create a technically polished film.

     

    Seymour: An Introduction DVD Review

         Actors: Seymour Bernstein, Ethan Hawke
  • Director: Ethan Hawke
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • DVD Release Date: November 3, 2015
  • Run Time: 81 minutes



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            There is a magnificently unexpected moment within Seymour: An Introduction, from which the tagline of the film was born. Filmmaker Ethan Hawke is having a conversation with legendary pianist Seymour Bernstein about the struggles of striving to live life “more beautifully.” Bernstein questions whether Hawke can achieve this through his career in film, a question which leaves the actor tongue-tied. If a life dedicated to the arts is not about commercial or financial success, what is the ultimate goal? These are the questions investigated in Seymour: An Introduction, a film chronicling one man’s decision to leave behind fame and wealth for a modest life teaching his art form as way to “play life more beautifully.”

     

    Do I Sound Gay? DVD Review

         Actors: David Thorpe, George Takei, Tim Gunn
  • Director: David Thorpe
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • DVD Release Date: November 3, 2015
  • Run Time: 77 minutes


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            Documentaries recently have begun to fall into distinct sub-genres, with a majority made up of biographies and those with political and/or social agendas. Though you could argue elements of the latter in Do I Sound Gay?, it is more of an investigation of a specific social phenomenon, never taking a strong stance or carrying a specific purpose. The answer may be too simplistic for a feature-film discussion, which is why the personalization of the topic by filmmaker and journalist David Thorpe helps to pad the narrative.

     

    Hungry Hearts DVD Review

          Actors: Adam Driver, Alba Rohrwacher
  • Director: Saverio Costanzo
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: MPI Home Video
  • Release Date: October 20, 2015
  • Run Time: 113 minutes




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            Even after completing Hungry Hearts, I’m not entirely clear on what type of film writer/director Saverio Costanzo intended to make; what begins with a scene that suggests a subtle romance slowly sinks into a schizophrenic narrative about mental illness unable to decide whether it is a thriller or a drama. Even when it seems clear that the screenplay would have us treat the material as somber melodrama, the music and stylistic camera choices that Costanzo use suggest that Hungry Hearts a psychological horror film in the tradition of 1970s Roman Polanski. Either way that I consider the film, it doesn’t work for me, though I will admit that elements of the narrative certainly succeeded in leaving me unnerved.

     

    The Final Girls Blu-ray Review

    Actors: Alexander Ludwig, Malin Akerman, Nina Dobrev, Alia Shawkat, Taissa Farmiga
  • Director: Todd Strauss-Schulson
  • Producers: Michael London, Janice Williams
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, AC-3, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, Portuguese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Indonesian, Thai, Spanish, English
  • Dubbed: French, Portuguese, Thai, Spanish
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: November 3, 2015
  • Run Time: 91 minutes




  •         In Carol Clover’s crucial critical analysis of feminism in the horror genre in her book, “Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film,” the critic popularized the term ‘final girl’ in reference to the sole survivor within the slasher sub-genre. This ‘final girl’ is typically seen to survive due to the purity of her character (no drinking, drugs, or sex), enforcing the conservative ideology of Reagan’s America during the 1980s even further by showing the bloody demise of the characters displaying weaker moral compasses. This is where the significance of the title for The Final Girls originated, though the opportunity to reference classic slasher horror films is wasted beyond a basic premise for the rules of horror. None of the postmodern discussion of horror structure extends beyond one simple observation, and this merely feels like a rehashing of better movies, such as Scream and The Cabin in the Woods.

     

    Pixels Blu-ray Review

    Actors: Lainie Kazan, Kevin James, Josh Gad, Ashley Benson, Affion Crockett
  • Director: Chris Columbus
  • Producers: Adam Sandler, Chris Columbus, Mark Radcliffe, Allen Covert
  • Format: Blu-ray, Ultraviolet, Color, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, Portuguese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Indonesian, Cantonese, Thai, Spanish, English
  • Dubbed: French, Portuguese, Thai, Spanish
  • Audio Description: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Rated: PG-13 
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: October 27, 2015
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: December 31, 2018
  • Run Time: 106 minutes




  •         Adam Sandler’s involvement in another lazily constructed comedy is not surprising, though I find it oddly fascinating that the quality of his films seems to diminish as the budget increases. While none have been masterpieces, some of his smaller productions have fared far better than these sophomoric blockbusters. Pixels boasts the premise of a special-effects driven action-comedy, but it has the approach of a mildly immature family film made on autopilot.

     

    Paper Towns Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Nat Wolff, Austin Abrams, Justice Smith
  • Director: Jake Schreier
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Unknown), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Studio: 20TH CENTURY FOX
  • Release Date: October 20, 2015
  • Run Time: 109 minutes




  •         This is clearly a film made to be appreciated by young adults alone, and this is apparent by the ultimate message that the worst thing a teenager can be is responsible. Paper Towns actually reminds me a great deal of Juno, another film where pretentious hipster behavior is embraced as superior. Thankfully, unlike Juno, that judgmental representation of pretentious behavior is not found in the protagonist of the narrative. Whether it is me showing my age through my preferences, a poor adaptation of the original text, the failures of model Cara Delevingne as an actor, or a combination of all, less time spent with the character of Margo makes it easier to appreciate Paper Towns.

     

    Back to the Future: 30th Anniversary Trilogy Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Thomas F. Wilson, Crispin Glover
  • Director: Robert Zemeckis
  • Format: Digital_copy, Blu-ray, Box set, Widescreen
  • Language: English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), French (DTS 5.1), Spanish (DTS 5.1)
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish, English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 4
  • Rated: PG
  • Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: October 20, 2015
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: May 2, 2016

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            These days it is common practice to film several sequels at once, but it was still a daring decision when Back to the Future utilized this method. This is one of many ways that the time-travel franchise predicted the future. Back to the Future: Part II was released in November of 1989, with the end of the film containing a trailer for the third film set to be released in the summer of 1990. This was prior to the splitting of every final book in a series, before trilogies were planned out without the success of the original release, and when there were still few enough blockbuster franchises for these films to be culturally significant. 30 years later and the dynamics of the industry have drastically changed, but the influence of these films has stood the test of time.

     

    The Benoît Jacquot Collection Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Fabrice Luchini, Isabelle Huppert
  • Director: Benoit Jacquot
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Color, DTS Surround Sound, NTSC, Subtitled, Surround Sound, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Cohen Media Group
  • Release Date: October 20, 2015
  • Run Time: 274 minutes




  •         Not only are the three films included in The Benoît Jacquot Collection all from the 1990s, they each have a connection in themes and characters, especially when considering the commonalities in the young female roles. I can’t decide whether the approach is feminist or merely a representation of how the beauty of youth is coveted by an endless stream of middle-aged men in all three narratives. Either way, the ideas from these movies only work because of the enigmatic and captivating performances from Jacquot’s leading ladies, each balancing somewhere between girlishly adolescent behavior and the maturity of womanhood.

     

    A Special Day Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni
  • Director: Ettore Scola
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Italian
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • Release Date: October 13, 2015
  • Run Time: 107 minutes

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            The title of Ettore Scola’s film could be interpreted several ways, as the events of the narrative take place during an important day in Italian history but may have even more significance for the two leading characters for completely different reasons. A Special Day takes place during Adolf Hitler’s visit to Italy and Benito Mussolini in 1938, which remains at the center of the narrative despite nearly the entire film taking place at a working-class apartment building. After the film opens with 6-minutes of actual newsreel footage, we remain distanced from these events, despite the constant radio broadcast as the background soundtrack to the narrative.