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June 2013

Film Review - Redemption

REDEMPTION Jason Statham

Jason Statham will never have acting range in a manner that brings him respectability in the industry, but he has tremendous presence, utilized to varying degree in action extravaganzas that play up his cool, knuckle-cracking demeanor. While hardly challenging the star, “Redemption” does offer Statham something a little different to play, offered a chance to take possession of a human being for a change, not just a growly enforcer. The picture provides the traditional allotment of intimidation and cracked bones, yet “Redemption” has a little more on its mind than a simple serving of beatings. Visually striking and marked by unexpected characterizations, the movie isn’t perfect, but it’s unusual, acting as a career multivitamin for Statham. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - The Heat

HEAT Sandra Bullock Melissa McCarthy

After spending a considerable amount of time floundering with his directorial career, Paul Feig hit pay dirt with 2011’s “Bridesmaids,” a rude, crude, profoundly improvised comedy centered on female characters. It makes sense to find Feig repeating the formula for “The Heat,” though the effort isn’t a twist on matrimonial madness movies, but buddy cop cinema, pairing Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock as the titular force of justice, but only giving them a few pages of story to work with. The rest of the experience is a riffing hailstorm where everyone dashes for a punchline, disrupted by scenes of graphic violence to break up the monotony. It’s an aggressive picture in many ways, but it never comes together as a cohesive lampoon, meandering around chasing impulses instead of solidifying itself as a determined action comedy. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - White House Down

WHITE HOUSE DOWN Channing Tatum Jamie Foxx

We already suffered through one of these “‘Die Hard’ in The White House” movies with last March’s “Olympus Has Fallen,” a mean-spirited, moronic actioner that set the bar on the floor for the newly christened subgenre. “White House Down” almost matches the competition in terms of unpleasantness and abysmal filmmaking, once again treating the premise as an open invitation to make the audience feel icky for watching something that should be high-flying, guns-blazing carnival ride. A monster budget helps the new picture in the long run, but boiled down to the essentials of competent screenwriting, thoughtful direction, and thespian creativity, and “White House Down” mirrors “Olympus Has Fallen” to a disturbing degree. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - Byzantium

BYZANTIUM Gemma Arterton

“Byzantium” marks the return of director Neil Jordan to the realm of vampire stories, have previously helmed one of the more famous entries in the subgenre, 1994’s “Interview with a Vampire.” It’s an interesting homecoming lacking star power and a blockbuster budget, yet there’s atmosphere to spare in this curious mediation on manipulation and imprisonment, with a healthy dose of poisonous sex appeal to complete the elaborate arc of seduction. It’s a strange film, often in a manner that encourages interest in the story, but Jordan eventually loses his concentration in the third act, reducing the tension of “Byzantium” by encouraging overkill. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - Some Girl(s)

SOME GIRLS 1

We know Neil LaBute as a playwright and filmmaker who has a particular interest in the erosion of the human soul. He’s a man fascinated with emotional violence exchanged between the sexes, mining this concentration in work such as “The Shape of Things,” “In the Company of Men,” and “Your Friends & Neighbors.” In recent years, he’s experimented with genre entertainment to build a Hollywood career (including “Lakeview Terrace” and the misbegotten “Wicker Man” remake), but his heart remains with the pleasures of extreme discomfort. “Some Girl(s)” is an adaptation of LaBute’s 2005 play and is loaded with dark thoughts and agitation, making an excellent transition to the big screen courtesy of director Daisy von Scherler Mayer, who confidently retains LaBute’s acid splash. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - The Secret Disco Revolution

SECRET DISCO REVOLUTION 1

I doubt few people think about disco these days. I mean really think about, in terms of historical impact and social upheaval, not just loose beats and glitter. Director Jamie Kastner has certainly wrestled with the subject, delivering a bizarre documentary in “The Secret Disco Revolution,” which employs a mockumentary tilt to attack the myriad of stories connected to the rise and fall of what seemed to be a simple musical fad. Although blessed with a sense of humor, the picture is actually quite valuable as a document of the era, interviewing those who stood (and boogied) on the front line, amassing an eye-opening tale of greed, lust, and burgeoning confidence. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - Hannah Arendt

HANNAH ARENDT 3

I suppose “Hannah Arendt” could be classified as a bio-pic, covering a few critical junctures in the life of the famous writer, though there’s not enough here to convey a life lived in pursuit of thought. It’s a stable, distanced picture from director Margarethe von Trotta, who endeavors to bring to the screen a portrayal of intelligence disputed, successfully communicating the frustrations and defiance of Arendt, reflecting a thirst for knowledge and spotlighting her breathtaking confidence for a modern audience perhaps unused to such remarkable character. It’s a solid feature but not always the most dramatic, content to experience moments in time with the subject instead of wrapping her passions around the screen in an inviting manner. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Australia's First 4 Billion Years

Australia's First 4 Billion Years

Dr. Richard Smith is a scientist craving an opportunity to share his beloved home continent of Australia with the viewing audience. A jubilant Aussie with profound knowledge of the natural world, Dr. Smith isn't looking explore recent developments in the land, but desires to whisk the audience back over four billion years to witness Australia's birth and development into a land of fascinating creatures and unimaginable beauty and wonder. And how does one travel back in time these days? By a magical GPS device that guides Dr. Smith down a rocky road of existence, watching the terrain transform right in front of his eyes as he details changes encountered while his jeep rockets into the past. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Telephone Book

THE TELEPHONE BOOK Sarah Kennedy

Perhaps experimental sex comedies were a dime a dozen in the early 1970s, but I fail to see a reason why anyone would get all worked up over "The Telephone Book." About as arousing as a tax audit and funny as jury duty, the picture is a surreal journey into random confessions and pig-masked monologuing, imagining itself to be a wonderland of carnal delights and cutting satire, wafting over its audience like a wave of marijuana smoke. For the clean and impatient in 2013, "The Telephone Book" emerges as an oddity from 1971, but not a particularly compelling one. With its outlandishness napping and its sense of humor missing, this X-rated relic is best served to fans of obscure exploitation cinema, those brave souls able to somehow appreciate the feature's idiosyncrasies and its Vietnam-era taboo-smashing tastes. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - Apartment 1303

APARTMENT 1303 Mischa Barton 2

There is no rhyme, reason, or basic filmmaking competency to “Apartment 1303.” A ghost story that doesn’t bother with the story part of equation, the movie is relentlessly bogged down by idiocy and clumsy acting, resembling hundreds of similar genre offerings where the scares claim a higher priority than anything else, and even those are utterly worthless. Teeming with inconsistencies and ineptitude, “Apartment 1303” ends up a complete waste of time, not even amusing as bottom shelf schlock that welcomes the respite of mockery. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - World War Z

WORLD WAR Z Brad Pitt

Because we all love a good disaster story, much has been made recently about the production challenges that temporarily paralyzed the shooting of “World War Z.” It ran overbudget, suffered through numerous rewrites, and found its third act completely rethought by a second creative team when the original work failed to land the proper punch. The trouble with such compulsive rubbernecking is that “World War Z,” despite some major malfunctions, is no train wreck. In fact, it’s a rather energized horror picture, skillfully using the fantasy concept of a furious zombie outbreak to construct a representation of global pandemic hysteria, with star Brad Pitt wisely tucking in his cape to play a human being facing doomsday, refusing the superhero path. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - Monsters University

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY 1

“Monsters University” is a prequel I’m positive most audiences will be celebrating. It’s Pixar on autopilot, returning to the playground of one of their biggest, most enduring hits, coasting on good faith as the story dials back about a decade to detail how scare professionals Mike Wazowski and Sulley first met (I guess one must simply ignore a line in 2001’s “Monsters, Inc.” that established the pair as elementary school chums). Loaded with gags and entertaining characterizations, “Monsters University” is a breezy time with old friends, smartly stepping away from the scare floor to take the monster carnival to college, opening a whole new world of possibilities for this colorful universe. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - The Bling Ring

BLING RING Emma Watson

“The Bling Ring” is not a film where the audience is meant to understand the characters, to peek behind the behavioral curtain to comprehend corrupt impulses. It’s an atmospheric picture, wallowing in indifference and cheap thrills to showcase the mummification of a generation raised on celebrity culture, caffeine, and permissive parenting. “The Bling Ring” doesn’t possess a death grip of judgment I’m sure most would like from this depiction of millennial lunacy, yet writer/director Sofia Coppola makes a more convincing argument for condemnation through observation, watching dim children willingly engage in illegal activities, incapable of showing remorse. That’s chilling enough. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - Maniac

MANIAC Elijah Wood

1980’s “Maniac” caused a great disturbance when it was initially released, with the late film critic Gene Siskel making it his personal mission to destroy the effort in the press, rejecting the work as grisly and hateful toward women. He wasn’t exactly wrong, but director William Lustig fashioned an exploitation picture, and one that knew exactly what it was doing. In 2013, we have a remake, though the low-budget grime has been scrapped off the material, replaced with impressive usage of POV cinematography, putting the audience into the skin of a killer. The redo also benefits from hindsight, creating a sleeker, more effective movie that remains as violent and irresponsible as ever. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - Much Ado About Nothing

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING Joss Whedon

In 1993, Kenneth Branagh attempted a lush, cinematic take on William Shakespeare’s famous play, “Much Ado About Nothing.” Attempting to counterpunch contextual impenetrability, Branagh turned the stage production into a luscious screen event, boasting stunning Italian countryside locations, heavenly golden bodies, and an all-star cast bent on challenging themselves with a rare outing of sophistication. It was a beautiful film, and perhaps bold enough to discourage beloved writer/director Joss Whedon from matching its sense of euphoria. His “Much Ado About Nothing” elects the opposite approach, refusing production polish, varied locations, and even color. It’s a stripped-down take on the Bard, ready-made for Whedon acolytes -- certainly interesting, but once you go Branagh, it’s difficult to go back. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - Detention of the Dead

DETENTION OF THE DEAD 1

There’s cheeky homage, and then there’s “Detention of the Dead.” Adapted from a play by Rob Rinow, the feature aims to induce nostalgia, chills, laughs, and tears by mixing the sensitive juvenile delinquent antics of the “The Breakfast Club” with the zombie stomp of George Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead,” trusting knowing audiences will receive a charge out of the numerous references that litter the film. Unfortunately, the opposing tones rarely complement each other, rendering “Detention of the Dead” a misfire in terms of intended buoyancy. While it features some pleasing tech credits and an engaged cast, the effort swings too wildly from sensitivity to slapstick, resulting in a disagreeably disorienting viewing experience. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - Rushlights

RUSHLIGHTS 1

It opens with a quote from an 18th century poem and ends with a display of stupidity right out of 2013. It’s difficult to make heads or tails out of the mystery “Rushlights,” and the filmmaking certainly doesn’t reward the patience required to remain on top of the screenplay’s network of twists and turns. Overstuffed with motivations in an attempt to keep viewers guessing until the insipid conclusion, “Rushlights” mangles its noir intentions by trying way too hard to inflate itself into something significant. It’s clear from the opening act that co-writer/director Antoni Stutz should play this material with more venom and less bluster, but there’s no stopping the effort when it slips into runaway boulder mode, squashing any chance for a sleek, effective puzzler. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com