Tomboy DVD review

  • Actors: Sophie Cattani, Jeanen Disson, Malonn Lévana, Zoé Heran, Mathieu Demy

  • Director: Céline Sciamma

  • Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, DVD, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled, Surround Sound, Widescreen

  • Language: French

  • Subtitles: English

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1

  • Number of discs: 1

  • Rated: Unrated

  • Studio: Wolfe Video

  • DVD Release Date: June 5, 2012

  • Run Time: 82 minutes

  •             Tomboy tells the story of a ten-year-old girl with no interest in being a girl. Her parents have grown accustomed to the short hair cut and boyish clothing, allowing the prepubescent child the freedom to be and act the way she wants to. She looks so much like a young boy that it allows the young girl the freedom to create a new personality when she arrives in a new town with her family over summer.

                The young girl is Laure (Zoé Heran), though she begins calling herself Mikael and passing herself off as a boy with the neighborhood kids. This allows Laure to participate with the boys in all of the rougher activities, but it also draws the attention of the group’s one female leader, Lisa. Lisa and Laure begin a hesitant and experimental relationship with each other; all the while Laure is under the guise of Mikael and forced to hide the truth.

                Tomboy is a slow build to the revelation that Laure makes about the truth at the end of her summer. Once school begins, there will be no way to hide her true name or identity, a fact that slowly creeps up on her after the excitement of the situation wanes. Heran carries the film without having to say much; we can see the inevitable discomfort that the truth will bring her. Much of the film’s power comes from this powerful young performance.

                This remarkable little French film comes out on DVD with a behind-the-scenes featurette and a trailer.

    The Collapsed DVD review

  • Actors: Vincent Thomas, Steve Vieira, Stefano Gallo

  • Director: Justin McConnell

  • Format: Color, DVD, NTSC, Widescreen

  • Language: English

  • Subtitles: English

  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

  • Number of discs: 1

  • Rated: Unrated

  • Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment

  • DVD Release Date: June 5, 2012

  • Run Time: 82 minutes

  •             We have come to the point where post-apocalyptic films are so commonplace that they are no longer restricted to horror films. There is a whole new wave of post-apocalyptic films in genres ranging from science fiction and horror all the way to straight drama and comedies. The only notable aspect of The Collapsed is the mere fact that it was made on a budget of $150,000. There are minimal action scenes and very little special effects, leaving only suspense and a solid story to hold the film up. Unfortunately, The Collapsed is only partially successful with each of these, and dialogue and acting are enough to nearly make the film unwatchable.

                The story is so familiar that it is almost cliché at this point. A family of four escapes the city after the apocalypse, searching for a way to survive in the wilderness. We don’t know why civilization has fallen, but other humans are a threat and must be avoided. The family is led by the father (John Fantasia), and also includes his wife and two fully grown adult children. Together they try and survive the harsh conditions, violent men, and a mysterious force in the woods.

                The biggest problem with this film seems to be the dialogue, which also has a tendency to weed out the worst of the actors. Although the two children are obviously fully grown adults, the dialogue has them acting as though they are still children. This provides opportunity for some of the worst film acting I have seen in quite awhile, and I am not ashamed to say that I was happy to see these characters eventually being killed off.

                Stay away from this film unless you are looking to laugh at the awful acting and cheesy dialogue. There are a few mildly admirable qualities to moments of the film, but they are too few and far between to even mention, much less remember. This is the type of film which impresses at festivals and falls flat whenever attempting any type of distribution outside of that world.

                The DVD includes a number of special features, including a commentary track with writer/producer/director Justin McConnell, whose credits have only included short films and documentaries up to this point. Also included in the commentary is co-producer Kevin Hutchinson, and there is a second commentary track with actor John Fantasia. There is also an online viewable making-of documentary and a music video.

    The Aggression Scale Blu-ray review

  • Actors: Ray Wise, Dana Ashbrook, Derek Mears

  • Director: Steven C. Miller

  • Format: Widescreen

  • Language: English

  • Subtitles: English

  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

  • Number of discs: 1

  • Rated: R (Restricted)

  • Studio: ANCHOR BAY

  • Release Date: May 29, 2012

  • Run Time: 85 minutes

                The Aggression Scale begins like so many other “home-invasion” horror films of recent past, from Funny Games to Trespass. There is a seemingly innocent family moving into their new home and a group of violent criminals who break in and hold them hostage in their own home. Extreme violence inevitably occurs. The one thing that sets The Aggression Scale apart is enough to make it uniquely disturbing, albeit effectively gripping viewing experience.

                At the beginning of the film we are given information about the aggression scale, and how it determines a person’s propensity towards violence. When this information is followed by a series of brutal murders done by a group of thugs working for a mob boss out on bail (Ray Wise), it is easy to assume that they are the ones that are highly rated on the aggression scale. As they enter the Rutledge home, however, it becomes clear that they are not the ones that the title is referring to.

                The Rutledge family consists of a bratty teenage daughter and a silent young son named Owen. Although he appears harmless, Owen is 99.5 on the aggression scale, making him the only chance of survival against the brutal attackers. With a disturbing knowledge of guerilla warfare and the ability to make weapons out of anything within reach, Owen is an unexpected deadly force. The result is somewhat like an R-rated Home Alone, brutal and relentless in suspense and violence. There are moments of bad acting and poor dialogue, but the film never slows down enough for these to be as dominant as the cat-and-mouse action.

                The Blu-ray includes a making-of featurette, but I actually found the high definition presentation to be the highlight of the disc. There are some visually satisfying moments, and the soundtrack helps fuel the intense storyline even further.  

    Monster Brawl Blu-ray review

  • Actors: Dave Foley, Art Hindle, Robert Maillet, Lance Henriksen, Jimmy Hart

  • Director: Jesse Thomas Cook

  • Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, NTSC, Widescreen

  • Language: English

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

  • Number of discs: 1

  • Rated: Unrated


  • Release Date: June 12, 2012

  • Run Time: 88 minutes

  •             If you have ever wondered what would happen if you pit some of the most iconic monsters of films and folklore in a UFC-style battle, Monster Brawl is the movie for you. If you expect your films to have a storyline or characters developed beyond gags and bad make-up, Monster Brawl is not the film for you. Essentially containing nothing more than a series of fights, Monster Brawl is less of a movie as it is an undeveloped idea. Violent and vulgar as it may be, the focus is on comedy when dealing with the sporting event of Monster Brawl makes WWF appear realistic.

                Dave Foley and Art Hindle host as a slew of monsters separated into categories face off against each other. The monsters are split into divisions of creatures and the undead, and paired off again in weight categories. The main fight is between the heavyweight winners in both the creature and undead categories. This is all remarkably insignificant, however. The entire endeavor simply seems to come from the mind of a bored 13-year-old boy, complete with a few bikini-clad girls ringside.

                Even at 89 minutes, Monster Brawl seems too long for the storyline presented. The balance between comedy and horror is off, and neither is particularly successful. Watching Cyclops, Frankenstein’s Monster (inaccurately referred to simply as Frankenstein), and a Werewolf as they battle each other brutally is not nearly as entertaining as one might imagine. At least not in the hands of filmmaker Jesse Thomas Cook, who is responsible for writing, directing and editing this masterpiece in immaturity.

                The Blu-ray includes an audio commentary with Thomas, as well as producers Matt Wiele and John Geddes. Also included in the bonus features are a behind-the-scenes featurette and an outtake reel. The high definition is not bad looking, though it only makes the shoddy special effects more apparent.

    Life Without Principle DVD review

  • Actors: Richie Ren, Ching Wan Lau, Terence Yin

  • Format: Color, Dolby, DVD, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC

  • Language: Cantonese

  • Subtitles: English

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1

  • Number of discs: 1

  • Rated: Unrated

  • Studio: Indomina

  • DVD Release Date: May 29, 2012

  • Run Time: 107 minutes

  •             Life Without Purpose is like a Chinese Pulp Fiction within the financial world. Several seemingly unconnected characters struggle with moral decisions regarding money, while unique circumstances place them into incredible situations, all within the confinement of one eventful day in the stock market. The story is told somewhat out of order as well, allowing for the significance of certain events to sink in.

                When the stock market begins to suddenly crash in China, it affects everyone. Most directly it has a negative affect on the investment banker struggling to make ends meet at work when the market was doing fine, but the sudden panic also has an impact on the criminal underworld. A loan shark who regularly uses the bank for depositing his cash is the catalyst for several moral choices when a thief attempts to rob him in the parking lot and the investment banker is given the opportunity to keep some of his money unnoticed.

                The strongest storyline in Life Without Principle, however, focuses on the one character who has little to no interest in monetary gain. What he cares most about is remaining loyal to his childhood friends. Willing to commit any crime or beg for any amount of money in order to remain loyal, there is a strange morality to his immorality. First he is desperately attempting to raise money to bail out one of his criminal friends in jail for gangster activities and assault, but he is just as quickly willing to help his friend making money in the stock market.

                Though the cover of the DVD has a gun, an explosion and one of the film’s moments of violence, this is far from an action film. It is a suspenseful morality play with more humor than drama or action, all the while telling a compelling and convincing story of coincidental connections.  

    John Carter Blu-ray review

  • Actors: Willem Dafoe, Lynn Collins, Thomas Haden Church, Taylor Kitsch

  • Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen

  • Language: English

  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

  • Number of discs: 2

  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)

  • Studio: Walt Disney Video

  • Release Date: June 5, 2012

  • Run Time: 132 minutes

  •             Author Edgar Rice Burroughs is probably best known for creating Tarzan, though in 1912 he began a science fiction series under a pseudonym which has finally made its way to film 100 years later. There were many attempts prior to this to adapt “A Princess of Mars,” including an animated film and several live action in various studios over the years. The film’s plot seems very obviously to have inspired James Cameron’s Avatar and many other science fiction films, but John Carter marks the first actual adaptation of the first installment in the Barsoom series.

                The storyline is not nearly as complicated as it seem in the fist confusing fifteen minutes. We jump back and forth in time as a young man is willed his uncle’s journal after death. The journal tells the story of John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), a former military captain of the Civil War who accidentally transports himself to Mars and into the middle of another Civil War. Mars is a living planet, but one which is dying thanks to the pillaging of one group. Others fight to stop the devastation, looking to the Earth visitor for help because of his rare ability to defy gravity in ways that are impossible to natives of the planet. 

    As one of the few PG-13 live-action films that Disney has attempted, there is very little unexpected within this blockbuster. It is mostly a safe bet from start to finish, though an enjoyable and entertaining one for the most part. Director Andrew Stanton is best known for his animated work, and perhaps that helped in creating such a special effects and visually dominant film. There are plenty of unique creatures and I imagine the 3D effects would have been impressive as well. There may be some logic skipped in the telling of this story, for which I blame the mainstream Disney’s need to simplify everything for base audiences. All in all, however, there have been far worse live action films under the Disney logo.

    The Blu-ray 2-disc combo pack also comes with a DVD copy of the film. The DVD special features include an audio commentary with the filmmakers and a featurette about the 100-year journey getting to the point of this film’s production. The Blu-ray disc includes these as well as a second-screen option, an extensive making-of featurette, bloopers and deleted scenes, also with an optional commentary by Stanton.

    Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance Blu-ray review

  • Actors: Nicolas Cage, Idris Elba

  • Directors: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor

  • Format: AC-3, Dolby, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen

  • Language: English

  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

  • Region: All Regions

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

  • Number of discs: 1

  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)

  • Studio: Sony

  • Release Date: June 12, 2012

  • Run Time: 95 minutes

  •             Of the many superhero movies in the past decade, Columbia’s Ghost Rider was among the most disappointing. Although the premise based on the darker Marvel comic promised a supernatural vigilante justice, the PG-13 adaptation by filmmaker Mark Steven Johnson (Daredevil; not to mention the recent disastrous foray into romantic comedy, When in Rome) was a dull exercise in mediocre special effects. There was no edge to the 2007 film, but it made enough money worldwide for the creation of a sequel, which has much more promise than the original film, despite being far from perfect. The increase in entertainment in the sequel is all thanks to the directors chosen.

                Neveldine/Taylor are best known for a hyper-kinetic postmodern style of action, most notably on display in the violent Crank films. Though their directing filmography is void of PG-13 action, they wrote the screenplay for the upcoming Jonah Hex. Cage’s unbridled energy actually matches better with Neveldine/Taylor’s full-throttle approach to filmmaking, though he still comes off as the weakest element in the film. Either way, the biggest problem about the comic book character on film is that he is nothing more than a flaming skeleton during action sequences. This makes the leading actor nearly irrelevant during the action, making the filmmakers the real stars. Though I don’t agree with every choice that Neveldine/Taylor make, I would rather see someone take risks rather than another cookie-cutter superhero film. This still may be a PG-13 film, but these pair of directors pushes the limits and add a style that is engaging regardless of quality.

                 Much of the success lies in the style of the film. What must be overcome is the silly yet simple storyline and Cage’s acting. Cage’s return as Johnny Blaze means many scenes of overacting in-between the energetic action. This time taking place on the road in a remote portion of Europe, where our anti-hero is recruited to help save a young boy whose soul has also been sold to the devil by his mother. Blaze doesn’t believe he has the ability to save anyone and only agrees to help if it means getting rid of his curse as the Ghost Rider.

                The story is almost insignificant as soon as the action starts up, and that is when the film truly takes its place above the awful first attempt at this comic book adaptation. All of this is worth seeing and also highly enhanced by the Blu-ray high definition presentation. The special features include a few deleted scenes, but exclusive to the Blu-ray are a few additional extras. There is an exclusive expanded director’s video commentary, as well as a six-part documentary about the making of the film. This documentary shows that it isn’t just the style of their films which are energetic and somewhat insane, but also the manner in which they are made. Neveldine and Taylor are as much stunt men as they are filmmakers.

    Demoted Blu-ray review

  • Actors: David Cross, Michael Vartan, Sean Astin, Billy West

  • Format: Widescreen

  • Language: English

  • Subtitles: English

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1

  • Number of discs: 1

  • Rated: R (Restricted)

  • Studio: Starz / Anchor Bay

  •  Release Date: June 12, 2012

  • Run Time: 94 minutes

  •             With a little bit of Office Space and a little bit of “The Office,” Demoted is a work-based comedy which carries feminist-based themes within a raunchy and rude exterior. The story and every character within Demoted is as transparent as though this film had already been made, even when elements vary away from other office-based comedies. Even when it is unique, there are few surprises to be had. Somehow each moments of Demoted seems inevitable. It’s like a bad fast food meal. You may see the display pictures of the burger neatly stacked and feel your appetite whet, but it only takes one trip to McDonalds to know that the actual product will be shoddily thrown together for ease and profit.

                Rodney (Michael Vartan) is engaged to the daughter of a successful businessman, and he finds himself lying about a promotion he received at his job as a tire salesman. In reality, the promotion is actually a demotion when Rodney’s beloved boss dies after a night of excessive drinking and dancing at a local strip club. Rodney and his degenerate friend Mike (Sean Astin) have spent years as the top dogs in sales at the tire company they work for, but when their ridiculed colleague (David Cross) is promoted, he decides to punish them by demoting them to the position of secretaries.

                Rodney and Mike must learn what it means to work hard and drop their chauvinist attitudes once they are forced into this demeaning and belittling position, while also seeking revenge against their new tyrant of a boss. We know that the strip-club attending salesmen will become better men for having to endure the hardships of the secretaries, just like we know that the cross-dressing co-eds in Sorority Boys will become more sensitive while living with a sorority of rejects. This is what I call sex-comedy feminism. A raunchy storyline no feminist would enjoy eventually ends with a moral that they would appreciate.

                The Blu-ray has no special features to speak of and the high definition is hardly worth mentioning. The film itself is also hardly worth mentioning, featuring a number of recognizable actors in entirely forgettable roles.  

    Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Complete Eighth Season DVD review

  • Actors: Larry David, Cheryl Hines

  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1)

  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

  • Number of discs: 2

  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)

  • Studio: HBO STUDIOS

  • DVD Release Date: June 5, 2012

  • Run Time: 300 minutes

  •             Having done all that it could with the original set-up, season eight of Curb your Enthusiasm switches things up to help provide some fresh settings and scenarios for Larry David. Occasionally this is successful and awkward humor prevails, though the strength of this show has diminished some from earlier seasons. Even returning the native New Yorker to his hometown isn’t enough keep Curb your Enthusiasm as strong as it once was, but a variety of convincing cameos are what end up carrying season eight.

                Beginning with a divorce, season eight frees Larry David up to date once again. The single scene is uncomfortable enough without the help of Seinfeld creator Larry David’s patent social awkwardness, making a predictable mess and reliably full set of new situations for season eight. To help matters along even further, Larry moves to New York temporarily in order to avoid helping out with a charity function.

                New York provides all-new social situations to analyze and sabotage, from catching a cab to watching a Broadway show, though it is the cameos which help carry the season. Fellow comedian of discomfort Ricky Gervais (“The Office” and “Extras”) bumps egos with David, whereas Michael J. Fox has a battle with Larry in the final episode of the season. These cameos bring welcome new elements to the storyline, which is helpful when his dating life situations quickly grow stale.

                Though season eight is nowhere near as funny or smart as the first few seasons of the show, it is a welcome return with many new elements attempted. Being a bachelor and in New York City helps, though there are still a few bad episodes in the bunch. Season eight includes ten episodes on two discs, as well as a few special features. The bonuses include a roundtable discussion with Larry and the cast in New York, as well as Leon’s guide to NYC.