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James Donnelly "Ave Atque Vale" RSS Feed (Arizona)

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Noah (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD)
Noah (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD)
DVD ~ Darren Aronofsky
Price: $19.99

8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Going into this film with an open mind just might be what most viewers need., April 16, 2014
There's been a LOT of noise made about Darren Aronofsky's rather progressive interpretation of the biblical tale of NOAH, primarily from pundits over at Fox News, the citizens of GlennBeckistan and the Religious Right. Now it's clear from some of the reviews that some of the nay-sayers of this film CLEARLY went to this film to complain about it, or just didn't go to see it at all and are parrotting what they've read about the film. Complaining about not mentioning God (instead, to not alienate people of other faiths, they used the term "Creator" which was the term used for God in those days), to the "socialist progressive undercurrent" of the film (which doesn't exist), or that Noah is portrayed as a flawed, angry and violent human man as oppossed to the friendly "Let's get two of every animal and build an ark and have a happy time" children's picture-book telling of the tale.

But what are you really expecting from the director of PI (super-indie B&W film), REQUIEM FOR A DREAM (Major Indie drug addiction Depress-o-thon), THE FOUNTAIN (ultra-high-concept sci-fi art film), and BLACK SWAN (psychosexual hallucinatory thriller)?!??!? Aronofsky is an auteur. He's not a journeyman director. He's going to take whatever story interests and excites him and put his own spin on it.

NOAH is not perfect. It's a somewhat flawed film with an epic scale that is, per usual of Aronofsky, visually arresting. Russell Crowe doesn't quite fit into this role as easily as he might have in the past, and Jennifer Connelly, despite being a great actress, feels a little stilted. Emma Watson is fitting into her post-HARRY POTTER career quite nicely in this film as well as work in films like MY WEEK WITH MARILYN and THE BLING RING. Ray Winstone is a little over-the-top here, but kind of fun to watch, and Anthony Hopkins is decidedly under-the-top yet again in a role that solely demands expository dialogue.

However, the performances seem perfunctory to the visual tale that Aronofsky is telling. He wanted to tell this tale on the scale of the biblical tales of Cecil B. Demille, just without the all-ages stamp and all-star casting that caused people to flock to see THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, but most specifically, he wanted to tell a story that didn't have to adhere to every single sentence in the Bible. As with most of the Bible (and here comes the hate-mail), this is a story subject to interpretation, and his visual interpretation of this film is terrifically exciting. Although one would ask if Aronofsky was just making a film that not only was his vision, but was also to kind of troll the devout Christians. I would bet on mostly the former, and perhaps a little of the latter.

Although, that just won't cut it in this day and age. I was hoping that we would have evolved as audiences since 1988, and the firey, hateful rhetoric caused by Martin Scorsese's absolutely brilliant LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, but as reaction to this film has proven that we really haven't. Many people don't want "interpretations" of biblical stories; they want their biblical stories to be treated as totally literal with no room for interpretation. No critical thinking; no questioning.

Makes you wonder what kind of God they're worshipping, or what some churches are teaching. I went to eight years of Sunday School (although that ended about 27 years ago, when I was confirmed), but the teachers never said "This is TRUTH, and to deny that is a sin!". They taught us that knowledge of truth and having faith CAN go hand in hand, but don't ALWAYS have to.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 20, 2014 7:45 AM PDT

Quantum of Solace / Casino Royale [Blu-ray]
Quantum of Solace / Casino Royale [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Quantum of Solace
Price: $16.96
54 used & new from $7.79

2.0 out of 5 stars For Bond completists only who don't already own the incredibly dull QUANTUM OF SOLACE., April 15, 2014
When Daniel Craig's James Bond came out of the gate so strongly with director Martin Campbell's CASINO ROYALE, the franchise's first attempt at a reboot of the series when recasting one of the most famous fictional characters ever devised, it was an infuriating letdown to follow that up with director Marc Forster's QUANTUM OF SOLACE. Firstly, I know that the Bond franchise wanted to try and go in a different direction from what the previous films were (which was evident with CASINO ROYALE), and they did just that. But with QUANTUM, they tried something even riskier, and sadly it didn't pay off at all. First, they did their first direct sequel to a Bond film, as QOS picks up almost immediately after the final moments of CASINO ROYALE, with Bond looking to get vengeance on the group behind Le Chiffre and the blackmail and death of Vesper Lynd. Then, they went with not a tested action filmmaker but rather a indie film darling director like Forster, who has, in my opinion, done overrated film after overrated film, like MONSTER'S BALL and THE JACKET. While he could capably direct some of the action, it's actually the character moments that bring QOS to a screeching halt. The only thing that I was kind of impressed with about this film was Olga Kurleynko's character, who paralleled Bond's own obsessive quest for revenge. Although, to be honest, other than the opening car chase and some of the action sequences, I found QOS incredibly forgettable. I don't remember anything about the villain or any of the plot points. All I remember was how bereft of any real drama or suspense it was, and this empty feeling I had after viewing it. I find it so strange that Sony/MGM decided to keep going in the direction of getting a artsier director in hiring Sam Mendes, but boy, did he stick the landing on the breathlessly bravura and brilliant SKYFALL.

Seriously, if you're a Bond fan, and you really want both films for your complete collection, that would be the only sensible reason to buy this 2-disc set. But if you just want to own a really great Daniel Craig Bond film, buy the 2-disc special edition of CASINO ROYALE, and then buy SKYFALL. This is just a lame 2-disc set with bare-bones editions of both films and hence the 2-star rating. On a per-film basis, this would even out to 3.5 out of five since CASINO ROYALE is a 5-star film, and QUANTUM OF SOLACE is a 2-star film at best.

RoboCop (Unrated Director's Cut) [Blu-ray]
RoboCop (Unrated Director's Cut) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Peter Weller
Price: $5.00
15 used & new from $5.00

5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant reissue of one of the great Sci-Fi actioners of all time!, April 15, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
When I was considering buying ROBOCOP on Bluray the first time it came out, there were so many negative reviews here on Amazon that I couldn't believe it. How could a great film like this get such awful ratings when it finally came to a hi-def release?

The simple answer is that not only is the picture and sound of the original release deficient, it also doesn't have the full "unrated" cut that Criterion released way back when on DVD. So the producers of this release obviously went back to the drawing board and not only released the unrated cut, but fixed the sound and picture quality, as well as adding a LOT of really awesome bonus features, including a slew of retrospective interviews with Verhoeven, co-writer Ed Neumeier, stars Kurtwood Smith and Peter Weller, as well as other members of the cast and crew. And there's a new commentary track as well.

This is the Bluray release of ROBOCOP that fans have really been waiting for, and what's even better is the price. This is FAR cheaper than pretty much all of the earlier releases, particularly the Criterion edition.

Just stop reading these reviews and buy it.

FN Herstal Five-Seven CO2 Blowback Airsoft Pistol airsoft gun
FN Herstal Five-Seven CO2 Blowback Airsoft Pistol airsoft gun
Offered by Airsoft Station
Price: $169.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I wish more of it was metal, but this is a darn good airsoft gun., April 15, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Aside from most of being composite plastic with the exception of the barrel and the magazine, this is an excellent quality airsoft pistol. I'm not a airsoft player, but I am an airsoft enthusiast because I love the realism that is produced by many of the higher-quality (and even some of the lower-quality) airsoft guns. They make great replicas for collectors. I'm sure that you could probably even trick this out a bit on the RIS to get a cool BATTLESTAR GALACTICA prop as well, but that's a little outside my purview. The ambidextrous safety is a long way towards the realism as well. I would have preferred this as a green-gas gun rather than a CO2, but that's actually a benefit for players since you get a lot more use out of a CO2 cartridge than the constant refilling of the green-gas mags. You can also put some cool extras on the RIS, like a good laser or tactical light, but make sure it will fit. I have a laser/tac light combo that I was hoping would be perfect for this, but the rail is a little too skinny for it.

Anyway you cut it, though, with a higher loadout than your standard airsoft pistol (22 shots!) and good power, this is a great gun for a really good price.

Doctor Who Vortex Manipulator and Sonic Screwdriver
Doctor Who Vortex Manipulator and Sonic Screwdriver
Offered by ABCTOY4me
Price: $23.90
27 used & new from $23.89

3.0 out of 5 stars Good enough for an inexpensive alternative., April 15, 2014
= Durability:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:3.0 out of 5 stars 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
While it's cool to try and be something of an amateur completist Whovian, this is a product that could have greatly benefitted from just a few tweaks. I don't really have a whole lot to say about the mini-me version of the 9th/10th Doctor's Sonic other than it makes a cool little flashlight. There's no sound and it doesn't extend. It's just a fun little toy.

Captain Jack Harkness's Vortex Manipulator, though, is another story. It's built pretty well for something that doesn't amount to much more than a kids toy, and that's exactly what it is. However, it doesn't have any sound effects, which is arguably the coolest thing about any of the other licensed Doctor Who merch. You press a button and a blue light comes on and THAT'S IT. I like to do amateur cosplay, and I'm putting together a Captain Jack outfit, but this could have been a lot cooler if they just added that one thing to it. It's big enough to wear on a slim to average adult-size male wrist, and more so for a woman's wrist.

Really, though, this could have been really awesome rather than just decent.

Riddick (Unrated Director's Cut Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet)
Riddick (Unrated Director's Cut Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet)
DVD ~ Vin Diesel
Price: $19.99
22 used & new from $13.81

4.0 out of 5 stars The first two acts of this film are pretty awesome... the third act, not so much., April 14, 2014
Let me start off by stating that I absolutely LOVE David Twohy's PITCH BLACK. It's not wholly original, but what it does with the genre, how it explores certain archetypes and how it creates one of the great anti-heroes of Sci-Fi are totally captivating. I'm also a fan of THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK, but much less so. It did a lot towards building the universe around the characters, but it went too high-concept. RIDDICK is very much a return to its roots kind of sequel, and again it starts off in such a compelling way and builds suspense incredibly effectively, but loses a lot of momentum when it goes for the big finale.

Left for dead by Vaako (Karl Urban in nothing more than a cameo) and the Necromongers from CHRONICLES, Richard Riddick (Diesel) is stranded on a planet that he was hoping was his home planet of Furya, but is a desolate waste of a planet where everything living is trying to kill him. The first act of this film is Riddick trying to survive this harsh environment, and aside from some issues with the CG jackals, it works rather brilliantly. Then he finds a mercenary outpost long-abandoned and triggers an alert that will send mercs to once again try and capture and/or kill him, but he just wants a ship that'll take him off-planet. Two very different squads of mercs arrive with very different reasons to take him in (portrayed by the likes of Katee Sackhoff, Bokeem Woodbine, and Dave Bautista just to name a few). When they arrive, Riddick starts putting his plans into motion, killing and creeping up on the mercs like the quiet villain in a horror film while the mercs start panicking. And things are very interesting and scary and cool, including a reveal about one of the mercs that goes back to the first film. But when the creepy-crawlie giant-scorpion-like aliens start to surround them (brought on this time by a torrential downpour rather than the eclipse of the first film), the film starts to lose its tether to what makes Riddick and his adversaries interesting, and therefore, the film starts to become less interesting.

From a character standpoint, most of the mercs are archetypes that Twohy puts a spin on. From righteous to religious to violent to hyper-ultra-violent. And in the midst of all this is poor Katie Sackhoff. Her character is initially cool, and aside from her original presentation as a lesbian (which is a cool idea to have that represented in a futuristic sci-fi action-horror), she is absolutely competent in her work. Until near the end of the film, it seems that Riddick intends to, for lack of a better term, cure her of her sexual preference because he's Riddick and he can do anything. That REALLY made me angry. I'm not saying that these films are intended to be the new zeitgeist of sci-fi action-horror, but PITCH BLACK and CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK did actually take the time to go beyond the adolescent male fantasy zone. Also, Riddick seems to get a little too touchy-feely with his more primal impulses towards his potential captors/killers at the end as well.

Now the effects. There's almost nothing that pulls me out of a sci-fi film faster than unconvincing effects, practical or digital. Now, I know that this isn't AVATAR; it doesn't have a $200 million budget, but there are effects houses that can still do really good work on the "cheap", but whoever worked on RIDDICK isn't one of those. Both the jackals and the scorpion things from a design perspective look really cool, but the digital work just isn't fluid and realistic enough to make them seem truly cool on-screen. However, the climax of the film helps these creatures simply by the fact they are now surrounded by darkness, so not as much detail needs to be given.

Still, for two out of three acts, this is a five-star movie. But RIDDICK loses points at the end.

Marvel Avengers Infinite Series Marvel's Grim Reaper Figure
Marvel Avengers Infinite Series Marvel's Grim Reaper Figure
Price: $10.99
20 used & new from $9.66

3.0 out of 5 stars The box size is misleading., April 13, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I wish that this product had the review that precedes this before I purchased it that actually lists this as a 3.75" figure. I felt that because of the package size, which is listed as being over 8 inches, this was a pretty good deal for a 6" Marvel figure. Alas, when I received it and saw it was a more "prestige" version of a 3.75" figure, I was pretty upset.

But it's still a nice figure. It's very unusual since Amazon has been pretty good about listing these figures as 3.75" as opposed to no listing of size at all other than box size. I hope they make that correction for the other figures in the "Infinite" line.

Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time
Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time
Price: $9.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Patton at his most subdued, but still funny as hell., April 12, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
TRAGEDY PLUS COMEDY EQUALS TIME is hardly Patton Oswalt's crown jewel of comedy albums, because I would say that honor goes to MY WEAKNESS IS STRONG, but it does help to catalog the evolution of a comedian who has gone from rebellious, anti-establishment geek to a more mellow but still incredibly creative husband and father who might not make us laugh as impossibly hard as he once did, but you still have to laugh pretty damn hard. The whole album is something of a rope-a-dope in the way it tells funny stories about his parenting concerns to problems with a particular state of the union, but then blasts us in the face with his final bit (not the final encore track, which is creative yet doesn't pack much punch) about Germans and their lack of humor. It seems to be going one way, but ends up in laughing-so-hard-you're-crying territory.

It's not even quite as good as his last album, FINEST HOUR, but it's funny and revealing enough not just to hold your interest as far as his storytelling abilities, and keep you laughing, even if it's not belly laughs.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier [Blu-ray]
Captain America: The Winter Soldier [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Chris Evans

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blending Modern Superheroics with 70's Paranoia Thrillers Makes Possibly The Best of the Marvel Films., April 7, 2014
Captain America: He's both the quintessential and the antithesis of the Marvel superhero. On his most basic level, he's perceived as an overgrown, superhumanly strong Boy Scout with a shield, which is a huge stretch from almost all of Marvel's other big heroes, who are either demigods, armored geniuses, genetic misfits, irradiated rage monsters, or radioactive spider-bite victims. But if you go beyond that surface, he's perhaps Marvel's most complex superhero. He's a man out of his time who suffers with adjusting to the modern world, who lives with survivor's guilt beyond anything that other heroes can comprehend, and has a very black-and-white moral world view. But times change, and sometimes what makes a hero great isn't just what he does, but who he is, and that is why Captain America is such a great hero. Tony Stark's assessment of him in THE AVENGERS, when he tells him, "Everything special about you came out of a bottle" simply isn't true. Steve Rogers had the heart and soul of a hero when he was still a ninety-pound asthmatic. He's the man to lead the charge against evil, but in our time, the heroes and the villains are not as black-and-white as they once were. How can you lead a fight when you don't know who your enemies are? That is just one of the many questions raised in CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, which is easily the best of the standalone Marvel Cinematic Universe films.

THE WINTER SOLDIER, based loosely on the instant-classic comic arc by writer Ed Brubaker and artist Steve Epting, begins with showcasing Steve Rogers (reprised again in his third/fourth appearance in this role by Chris Evans) as a man with a new mission. He works as an agent of SHIELD, taking point for their tactical team, rescuing the good guys and stopping the bad guys, and has been doing this since the events of THE AVENGERS. He, along with fellow agent Natasha Romanoff aka The Black Widow (reprised for a third time by Scarlett Johanssen), are tasked with saving SHIELD hostages from a crew of pirates. While Cap does most of the heavy fighting, Widow has a mission of her own that leads the rest of the film. It initially illustrates how different Cap and Widow are when it comes to their duties and how it puts Cap and SHIELD director Nick Fury (reprised here for the fourth/fifth time by Samuel L. Jackson) at odds. The strange computer program Widow recovers leads Nick to the office of Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), the secretary/liasion to the World Security Council (some of whose members we initially met in THE AVENGERS), and this meeting prompts Nick to understand that something is amiss. Nick is then assaulted by a mysterious figure known to intelligence sources around the world as The Winter Soldier. The identity of The Winter Soldier is known to fans of the comics, but isn't something I could spoil here. This tragic incident suddenly puts Cap and Natasha at odds with SHIELD, not knowing who to trust, and gains them a new ally in Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), a former Para-Rescue soldier with an amazing exosuit with jets and wings that earns him the nickname of Falcon as they have to stop the forces both without and within to not only save millions of lives, but a personal stake that Cap has with The Winter Soldier.

To call THE WINTER SOLDIER simply a big-budget tentpole superhero film is to do it a disservice, because it is so much more than that. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo (best known for their work on the television show COMMUNITY) and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (also writers of CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER and co-writers of THOR: THE DARK WORLD) have created a superhero film of the modern age of technology and how it can be easily abused in the name of "freedom". It's an extremely timely film in the days of drone strikes and the NSA surveillance scandal, but it's also a great throwback to the classic 70's paranoia thrillers like THE PARALLAX VIEW, as well as THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR and ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN (the latter two starring Redford, so having his presence in the film is a huge casting coup for this type of film). They are artfully able to insert this undercurrent of subversion to the superhero film amongst all of the superheroics going on, and they ARE super. Almost every action sequence in the film is practically worth the price of admission alone, from the opening scene vs. the pirates led by Batroc (who is a second-tier villain well-known to Cap fans) to Nick's car chase confrontation to Cap's elevator fight to Steve, Natasha and Sam's first run-in with The Winter Soldier (which was a sequence so expertly tense and bravura that it reminded me of the street shootout in Michael Mann's HEAT).

The film doesn't skimp on the surprises, either. The re-emergence of a believed long-dead threat personified in a slightly more realistic way than the character is represented in the comics is a little clunky with its hyper-expository monologuing, but ultimately fits well into the framework this film has presented. Also nice to see are Cobie Smulders reprising her role as Agent Maria Hill and Hayley Atwell as Agent Peggy Carter, both young and her older self in an incredibly heart-rending scene. But these elements are all enhanced by the other performances here. Evans continues to make his earnestness and humor and heroism blend seamlessly together in his best work in this role to date. Johanssen also continues to nail the hard edges of Black Widow, while letting cracks in her tough-as-nails and controlled veneer crack slightly to see more of the inner wounds she carries with her. Also something that's nice about her character in this film is that she's not there just for eye candy nor for a romantic interest. She's her own character and while Johanssen firmly owned this role in THE AVENGERS, she does harder work in this film, and deserves more praise. Jackson does his best work to date during his tenure as Nick Fury. He's finally given something to do other than stand around, verbally lay down the law, and look foreboding. Redford is fantastic as Pierce. He has the front of being an ultimate bureaucrat, but there's something menacing behind that exterior, which Redford has more than enough gravitas to convey. But the real star of this film is Mackie as Sam Wilson, who is an actor I've loved since first seeing him in THE HURT LOCKER, and he really gets a chance to shine extremely brightly. He has such an immediate chemistry with all of his compatriots and is totally believable and accessible, being kind of the "normal guy" of this mix and being thrust into this chaos, he's still able to keep his character's focus and make him smart, tough, capable, funny and human. There's nothing token about his character, which I've seen in some reviews as a complaint, and it's absolutely not true. It's hard to talk about the specific actor portraying The Winter Soldier, but he is totally 100% believable as a badass villain, but also completely sympathetic and kind of heartbreaking as the film reaches its climax, understanding what he's endured. He's a perfect balance to Cap as another soldier out of time, but not understanding what he's fighting for.

Also a definite high point is the score by Henry Jackman, the composer behind some great recent scores such as X-MEN: FIRST CLASS and CAPTAIN PHILLIPS. One of the beautiful things he gives this score is a slight discordant combination of notes when The Winter Soldier appears. It's music in the key of fear, but almost imperceptible, which is similar to the bow-against-the-electric-guitar-string theme that Hans Zimmer gave The Joker in THE DARK KNIGHT (although, this might be no coincidence, since Jackman also worked on TDK as well).

While I may not love this film as instantly and as easily as THE AVENGERS, it needs to be understood that this is a much deeper film than any of the previous entries into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While a piece of raw entertainment like THE AVENGERS is extremely well-written and well-acted, it's pretty much all surface. You know exactly what you're getting when you bought your ticket. With THE WINTER SOLDIER though, there are so many game-changing elements for the characters as well as the whole of the MCU. But more than that, you leave the theater asking questions not only about the film, but about the state of security in our world, and those are some really deep questions to be posed by a "superhero movie".
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 8, 2014 12:29 AM PDT

Tasc Performance Men's Carrollton T-Shirt, Cobalt, X-Large
Tasc Performance Men's Carrollton T-Shirt, Cobalt, X-Large
Price: $29.46
2 used & new from $29.46

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly comfortable and great to beat the heat., March 30, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This might not be the most fashionable shirt I've ever worn, but oh my, it is certainly one of the most comfortable. I live in the Phoenix area which, you may or may not know, can get QUITE warm. I wore this to a spring training game just last week when it was in the hot sun (but thankfully only about 78 degrees), and not only did the shirt not feel hot, as most t-shirts are wont to do under the hot sun, but actually helped to keep me cooler than I would have otherwise been.

With the size I ordered as an XL, it's a bit big on me, but it makes a great shirt for working out, jogging, or just lounging. Odds are you won't wear this out for a night on the town, but if you're looking to stay cool and comfortable in the gym or your five-mile run, I don't think this shirt can be beat.

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