Vinyl: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review

  • Director: Martin Scorsese
  • Format: Box set, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 4
  • Studio: Hbo Home Video
  • Release Date: June 7, 2016
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: December 31, 2021

  •         “Vinyl” is a show that seemed destined for greatness, built upon a foundation of elements that should have all led to guaranteed success: Martin Scorsese returning to HBO as producer of the series (and director of the pilot), a collaboration with Mick Jagger as a legendary rocker with unique insight into the industry and time period, and a premise approaching the 1970s music industry in a manner similar to the way “Mad Men” tackled the advertising business in the 1960s. With the constantly shifting landscape of rock during this decade, it seems like a show that should have written itself. There should have been a plethora of material for the first season of “Vinyl,” but instead we end up with a repetitive character study centering on the endlessly flawed protagonist.

    Extra Confessional: An Atypical Hail, Caesar! Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill
  • Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (DTS 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (DTS 5.1)
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: PG-13 Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: June 7, 2016
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: May 2, 2018

  •         I regularly lecture my students on the significance of Audience Reception Theory in the interpretation of each film we watch, though I found myself a student of this very lesson while viewing Hail, Caesar!, with the Joel and Ethan Coen as my (presumably) unwitting professors. This film theory essentially argues that each viewer’s interpretation of art will be affected by their own background and personal experiences. In the plainest sense, this means that viewers of Hail, Caesar! with previous experience watching classics from the golden age of cinema are more likely to appreciate the references to Esther Williams, Gene Kelly, Carmen Miranda, and countless others. But the latest Coen brothers film took on additional significance for me, having had the experience of being on set while it was filmed.

    In a Lonely Place Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame, Frank Lovejoy
  • Director: Nicholas Ray
  • Format: Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Not Rated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • Release Date: May 10, 2016
  • Run Time: 93 minutes

  •         Despite being adapted from a novel by Dorothy B. Hughes, In a Lonely Place says more about the director and stars than it does the author of the source material. Films about Hollywood have this tendency of bringing out the honesty from filmmakers who understand the cynicism of the text better than most, and beneath the violent noir narrative are raw performances and parallels with real life events. Bleak as the film may be, it also offers audiences one of the more unadulterated perspectives of the industry from those who knew it best. Nearly 70-years later and In a Lonely Place remains one of the most accurate depictions of the battle between art and commerce, reputation and reality, and the way that Hollywood often confuses them for each other.

    Triple 9 Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Jr. Clifton Collins
  • Director: John Hillcoat
  • Writer: Matt Cook
  • Producers: John Hillcoat, Keith Redmon, Bard Dorros, Marc Butan, Anthony Katagas
  • Format: NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1)
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: May 31, 2016
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: May 2, 2018
  • Run Time: 116 minutes

  •         If Triple 9 feels vaguely familiar, that’s because it resembles countless other similarly mediocre crime films. There is nothing inherently bad about it, but the unoriginality plagues the narrative until each derivative moment begins to feel like a parody of the genre, despite (or perhaps because of) a deadly seriousness with which the material is approached. A good ensemble cast and solid direction from John Hillcoat (The Road, Lawless) can’t make up for the derivative screenplay which plateaus in the opening sequences.