Project X Blu-ray review

  • Actors: Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper

  • Director: Nima Nourizadeh

  • Format: NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen

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

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1

  • Number of discs: 2

  • Rated: R (Restricted)

  • Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures

  • Release Date: June 19, 2012

  • Run Time: 88 minutes

  •             The found footage fake documentary films have continued to sprout up, but thankfully they have also moved beyond the horror genre and sitcoms. Films like Chronicle utilize the same techniques to make found footage films without the scares of horror movies or the talking head narration of comedic shows such as “The Office” or “Parks and Recreation.” While Project X is still a comedy, it doesn’t take much time out to have the characters explaining their feelings to the camera. Instead the movie looks more look footage taken from a cameraman working for Girls Gone Wild. Amidst the endless footage of drinking, dancing and flashing, there are also a few scenes of comedic mayhem and a predictably cliché movie romance.

                 The storyline remains so simplistic that it would not have made much of a film without the found footage stylistic choice. Otherwise it is simply the story of a group of unpopular guys who decide to throw a party in order to change their status at school. Thomas is having his seventeenth birthday party, which is also coincidentally the same date as his parent’s wedding anniversary and his first weekend home alone. With the encouragement of his rambunctious friend and the arrival of thousands of guests, Thomas’ birthday party becomes a monumental event. Even the hottest girl at school shows up, which causes problems when Thomas is forced to choose between her and his female best friend.

                The predictability of the love triangle is countered by the irreverent behavior which slowly starts to take over the party. With a stroke of luck and some maneuvering, the first visit by the cops is deterred and the party continues. Soon it becomes completely out of control, however, and there is no telling what might happen next. The party becomes complete chaos, overrunning the neighborhood and frightening even the law enforcement away from entering. This all happens somewhat gradually, starting with excessive drinking, drugs and sex. Before long this graduates to violence and destruction.

                There are no cast member names given on the back of the Blu-ray, almost as if the filmmakers are attempting to convince audiences that this footage is actually real, despite needing to have a disclaimer on the front cover which announces the fact that it is fictional. They want to trick audiences, but not as much as they need to cover themselves from lawsuits if some young kids decide to imitate any of the countless idiotic acts within the film. The Blu-ray disc also includes an extended cut of the film, which has plenty additional moments of nubile teenagers partying.

                Aside from the extended cut of the film, the Blu-ray also contains a few exclusive special features. There is a feature which tallies up the total cost of a party like the one in the film, as well as a behind-the-scenes feature for all of the incredibly dangerous stunts in the film. The combo pack comes with a Blu-ray, a DVD and an Ultraviolet digital copy.

    Seeking Justice Blu-ray review

  • Actors: Nicholas Cage, Guy Pearce, January Jones, Xander Berekely

  • Director: Roger Donaldson

  • Format: Color, Widescreen

  • Language: English

  • Subtitles: English, Spanish

  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

  • Number of discs: 2

  • Rated: R (Restricted)

  • Studio: ANCHOR BAY

  • DVD Release Date: June 19, 2012

  • Run Time: 105 minutes

  •             The storyline for Seeking Justice reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic Strangers on a Train, or the subsequent comedic remake, Throw Mama From the Train. It brings up an interesting concept in the natural tendency to long for revenge when someone we love is wronged, and provides a scenario which makes this vengeance nearly foolproof. What if we weren’t the ones to kill our enemies, but instead had a stranger do it for us while stuck in an airtight alibi? And what would be required in return for such a deal to be made.

                Nicholas Cage stars somewhat unconvincingly as an ordinary man named Will Gerard, who is happily married to Laura (January Jones of TVs “Mad Men”). He is a nonviolent school teacher whose world is turned upside down when Laura is brutally attacked on her way home one night. Approached by a stranger named Simon (Guy Pearce) in the hospital waiting room, Will is offered the chance to make the attacker pay outside of the confines of the law. Simon informs Will that the only thing he needs to do in order to make this happen is promise a favor in the future. What Will doesn’t realize is how drastic of a favor will be asked of him when the time comes.

                Seeking Justice weaves together the workings of an underground vigilant group, one in which anybody and everybody is a possible member. Instead of participating, Will remains morally rigid to his beliefs, despite having given the okay for another man to be killed for his crimes. This double-standard is never fully addressed, because this is a suspense film and we are to automatically take sides with our protagonist and his morality choices. The real point of the film is his ability to remain one step ahead of a secret group which has an unknown number of members within his city.

                The Blu-ray is not spectacularly impressive, either in terms of visual improvement or bonus features. There is a behind-the-scenes featurette.

    The FP Blu-ray review

  • Actors: Jason Trost, Lee Valmassy, Art Hsu, Nick Principe, Brandon Barrera

  • Directors: Jason Trost, Brandon Trost

  • Format: Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen

  • Language: English

  • Subtitles: English

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1

  • Number of discs: 1

  • Rated: R (Restricted)


  • Release Date: June 19, 2012

  • Run Time: 83 minutes

  •             The FP begins almost exactly like the beginning of 8 Mile, which made me worry that this futuristic comedy about a Dance-Dance Revolution type game was actually a spoof. There are few films less creative or unique as those which merely make fun of more popular and successful movies. The FP is anything but unoriginal, however, and it has the ability to take its subject matter deadly seriously regardless of how silly it may be.

                The film takes place in a future where gangland warfare is decided by playing a dancing video game called Beat-Beat Revelation. Though it is never explained how this occurs, the main character’s brother is killed during a match in the first scene by a rival gang. JTRO (co-director Jason Trost) must avenge his brother and take back the territory of Frazier Park, otherwise known as The FP. He must do this in order to stop the rival gang, who control the local liquor store and have forced alcoholics to drugs by restricting what they sell. As a way of freeing the people to drink and avenging his lost brother, JTRO trains to fight in a dancing video game competition.

                There really couldn’t be much sillier or stranger storylines as the one in The FP. The only thing to match the absurdity of the storyline is the dialogue within the film, which is made up of a variety of modern lingo and Ebonics. No sentence is given proper grammar and half of the things that the characters say don’t even make sense, but this is somehow the point of the Trost brothers’ vision, along with kinetic camera work and an unbelievably goofy story.

                The Blu-ray comes with plenty of special features, including a commentary track from the Trost Brothers and a general making-of featurette. There is also a featurette about the real Frazier Park and a 16-page booklet insert with production photos and short essays by Rob Zombie, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor.


    The Hidden Blade Blu-ray review

  • Actors: Masatoshi Nagase

  • Director: YÃ'ji Yamada

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

  • Language: Japanese

  • Subtitles: English

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

  • Number of discs: 2

  • Rated: R (Restricted)

  • Studio: 12 Between Us

  • Release Date: June 19, 2012

  • Run Time: 132 minutes

  •             The Hidden Blade is a film about tradition and honor, in a time where these things were slowly beginning to fade. Samurai swords are being replaced by rifles and cannons to match the new Western way of fighting, and the samurai themselves are being taught how to become soldiers instead. All of this happens as one samurai is forced to pull his sword in battle for the first time and must choose between an old friend and the orders he is given by his samurai clan.

                Katagiri (Masatoshi Nagase) grew to be a samurai during a time of tradition and respect, but he discovers that the honor he brings to his responsibilities are not the same as others in his clan. After hearing of his old friend’s imprisonment for being a traitor, Katagiri is chosen as the one who must face him in battle. Though he has no desire to fight his friend, Katagiri is forced to make an impossible decision brought on by his gluttonous and immoral leaders.

                The Hidden Blade is not an action-packed film, but rather a movie about the characters and each individual decision they must make. The relationships remain far more important than any battle or fight scene, of which there are very few. The first portion of the film is much more concerned with the relationship Katagiri has with his long-time maid, Kie (Takako Matsu), who has served in his house since the passing of his father. Because they are of different castes, Katagiri and Kie are unable to wed, though he makes certain to protect her in any way he can.

                Few films have the ability to approach their subject as slow and subtly as The Hidden Blade does, while still remaining interesting. This film is captivating from beginning to end, if only because of the characters and how they come alive through the storyline. Though there is one inevitable swordfight, even this does not serve as the climactic moment of the film.

                The Blu-ray includes a number of special features, from a behind-the-scenes featurette to press conferences with the director and a feature from the Berlin Film Festival. The actual high definition is not altogether impressive. The film has a weathered period look to it, though it was only made in 2004. The image is not as sharp as you may have grown accustomed to with high definition, but the Blu-ray is worthwhile for the few moments which are apparently improved.  

    In Darkness DVD review

  • Actors: Robert Wieckiewicz, Benno Fürmann, Agnieszka Grochowska, Maria Schrader, Herbert Knaup

  • Director: Agnieszka Holland

  • Writers: David F. Shamoon, Robert Marshall

  • Producers: Andrzej Besztak, Charlie Woebcken, Christoph Fisser, Eric Jordan, Juliusz Machulski

  • Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC

  • Language: Polish

  • Subtitles: English

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

  • Number of discs: 1

  • Rated: R (Restricted)

  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

  • DVD Release Date: June 12, 2012

  • Run Time: 145 minutes

  •             The storyline of In Darkness shares a great deal in common with Schindler’s List, in that it deals with a man who risks his own safety in order to help protect a group of Jews from the devastation of the German army during the Holocaust of World War II. First this arrangement is made merely for monetary purposes, but eventually becomes a moral decision alone. The fact that In Darkness is based on a true story only increases the impact of the content.

                Taking place in a Nazi-occupied city in Poland, a group of Jews begin an escape route into the sewers as a way to escape the ghetto they are confined in, but it ends up serving as an escape from the concentration camps. When they are discovered by a Polish sewer inspector named Leopold Socha, he agrees to use his unique knowledge of the sewers in order to hide them. He does so for a profit, taking advantage of the desperation in the Jewish survivors, though he changes his motives with time.

                The practical issues with the fourteen months spent in the sewer are dealt with in the storyline of In Darkness, from the need for food to an unplanned pregnancy. Socha is forced to risk more and more as he deals with each unique dilemma, determined to protect them even when it means putting himself in danger in the process. In Darkness is a difficult film to watch at moments, especially at 144 minutes, but this 2011 Best Foreign Film Academy Award nominee is also not a film which should be missed.

                The DVD includes a few spectacular special features, both with interviews from director Agnieska Holland (Europa Europa) and real life survivor Krystyna Chiger.