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Reviews Written by
Eric Sanberg RSS Feed (Villa Park, IL United States)

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Southpaw (Blu-ray + DVD + Ultraviolet)
Southpaw (Blu-ray + DVD + Ultraviolet)
DVD ~ Jake Gyllenhaal
Price: $24.99

4.0 out of 5 stars The Best of Its Kind, August 3, 2015
From the opening shot, when you see Gyllenhaal's bloody, silently screaming, face right in the camera lens, you know this won't be your normal boxing flick.

Here's the scoop. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Billy Hope, a light heavyweight champion boxer. He loves his wife (Rachel McAdams) and daughter (Oona Laurence) to no end. He enjoys all the perks of his success, but when his wife is killed in hotel lobby altercation with a would-be challenger, his life falls apart. He loses everything, including his daughter, and must work his way back to normalcy with the help of a trainer (Forest Whitaker) who is long out of the pro circuit.

This is by no means a new story. Everything here has been seen, in one form or another, in many other movies. What's going on here is exceptional acting, writing and directing. Gyllenhaal, for my dollar, is one of the most important actors working today. His depiction of Billy Hope is about as good as any performance you are likely to see. Whitaker is his usual good self. McAdams does a good job and Oona Laurence is really good. There is a lot of good dialogue and nice touches that raise what could have been pedestrian stuff above to a much higher level.

Now....I like much of Antoine Fuqua's movies. I just think he's got good sensibilities as a director, and he really steps it up here. This is, for my dollar, his best work. The fight scenes are choreographed and directed as well as any I've seen. These guys look like boxers as opposed to actors trying to look like boxers. The camerawork and editing really add that zing to things. Some truly exciting stuff. There is a wide range of music here as well. The late James Horner penned much of it but there was some pretty violent rap included that reminds the viewer how rough a sport boxing is.

This might not be great art, but it as great craft as you're likely to see.

Age of Uprising: The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas
Age of Uprising: The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas
DVD ~ Mads Mikkelsen
Offered by MightySilver
Price: $18.50
29 used & new from $11.53

4.0 out of 5 stars When is Justice Not Justice?, July 29, 2015
Though this seems to vary more than a bit from the actual historical event, it's still a heck of a movie.

Here's the scoop. Michael Kohlhaas is a horse trader on his way to trade fair. Two of his horses are taken as toll, by a particular Baron, to cross a bridge. The horses are terribly mistreated and Kohlhaas seeks justice from the court. When he is denied he enlists a couple of men and goes after the Baron. His few men turn into many and things get out of hand.

Mads Mikkelsen plays Kohlhaas who simply wants justice. The Kohlhaas depicted here seems to vary quite a bit from the actual version in that this one is more upstanding. It seems the original wasn't all that circumspect on who he killed or what villages he burned to the ground. But this movie is clearly on his side. Given the subject matter this is a surprisingly quiet movie. No great battles or final showdowns. Much attention is paid to the landscapes. The wondrous beauty is used, I suppose, to bolster the pureness of Michael. And he does not enlist his many followers. They find him because they believe in the cause. Yup. He's nearly a saint. I liked the ending. It was a real surprise. How does one achieve justice but still lose. Watch this and find out.

It's a beautifully shot movie and well acted. Mikkelsen says a lot with very few words. But it is probably too quiet for American sensibilities. Don't expect big Hollywood stuff here.

It might not be quite worth the 4 stars I gave it but it's well worth seeing for true cinephiles.

The Honorable Woman
The Honorable Woman
DVD ~ Various
Price: $22.99
25 used & new from $17.81

4.0 out of 5 stars Who CAN You Trust?!, July 29, 2015
This review is from: The Honorable Woman (DVD)
This is about as depressing as it is great but that speaks to the power of its vision and the talent that put it together.

Here's the scoop. The Stein Company in Israel, as a measure to lessen the gap between Israel and Palestine, initiates a program to lay optic cable in Palestine to help bring their communications into the 21st century. But the kidnapping of a child, and intelligence operatives crawling all over the place, jeopardize everything.

This is a filthy, ugly, underhanded, double (triple) dealing story that makes one wonder if and how these two countries will ever get it together. Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Nessa Stein who has taken the reins of the Stein company from her brother. But why? What is his secret? Then there's the kidnapped child. Who does he really belong to? Then there is a head operative (Stephen Rea) who is trying to unravel this mess while other operatives jockey for his job.

This is extremely well written and directed. It's unbelievably complicated and, as is stated in the opening sequence, "one wonders who you really can trust." And that finger points to nearly everyone involved. It gets so ugly you'll want to take a shower when it's over. It is also a very savvy script. It seems to understand the politics of the region all too well. It also seems to understand the positions of other countries (particularly the U.S. and Briton) in their stake in things. The actors all do an outstanding job. Rea is as good as I've ever seen him. He has this hang-dog look of a man who has been doing his job way too long. Gyllenhaal sleeps in a panic room and seems to think she needs to be beat up both physically and mentally for her secret. Her brother Ephra (Andrew Buchan) has his secret and it's at the heart of much of what happens. But...too much blood has been spilled over the decades and eveyrone wants their pound of flesh. It's a sad world.

This is a great series but you need to keep on the ball. If you so much as blink, something important will pass by.

Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau (Blu-ray + DVD + CD)
Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau (Blu-ray + DVD + CD)
DVD ~ Richard Stanley
Price: $24.99
15 used & new from $16.26

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Vision Floats Down the River, July 27, 2015
Documentaries such as "Jodorowsky's Dune" and "Lost in La Mancha" depict visionary films that just had the odds stacked against them, causing them to never see the inside of a movie theater. "Lost Soul," Richard Stanley's labor of love met a similar fate.

Here's the scoop. This documentary takes the viewer through the trials and tribulations director Richard Stanley experienced while trying to get "The Island of Dr. Moreau" made. Not only did things go south for the director, they went so south it's amazing it ever got made at all.

Richard Stanley's films "Hardware" and "Dust Devil" might not have been big hits but they were "genre successes" as is noted in this documentary. I liked both films. I don't think either can be considered great, but they have look and feel that suggests to the viewer that Stanley was onto something. It was no surprise then that he was given the green light for this project. Production company New Line Cinema and producer Edward Pressman figured they could get a real gem for a modest 8 or so million dollars. But as things progressed and Stanley asked for names like Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer, the dollars rose exponentially and the troubles began in earnest. Some of the white shirts interviewed here felt that Stanley simply could not manage a project of this size. But outside forces conspired to foul things up as well. Brando was ready to begin filming when his daughter committed suicide. When he finally did show up he managed to throw a huge monkey in the wrench, screwing everything up. Stanley was sacked and John Frankenheimer was brought on to finish. It wasn't his vision and not the type of movie he would choose to direct so things went further south. A hurricane killed some of the sets and everything took more time and money. It was a total SNAFU. That it ever got completed is a miracle in and of itself. But it did and it stunk and lost money.

The film runs through interviews with actors, executives, production people and the like and lets them say what they experienced. Nobody disliked Stanley and some genuinely liked him. But they realized he was a bit on the odd side and probably over his head. On the down side are the scenes with Richard Stanley himself. He's a bit tough to listen to because of his speech pattern. He has no rhythm and talks in flat tones, so my mind tended to drift a bit when he was on screen.

So....Stanley had a vision that was not realized. It's a shame but he was not entirely innocent in the bad things that happened. Had they stuck to the original, modestly budgeted plan, and left the big names out of it, this might have been a truly great film. Alas, we will never know.

Price: $7.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars They Got the Title Right, July 25, 2015
This review is from: Creep (Amazon Instant Video)
This is not a new a new approach to a story, where someone enters into a situation that morphs into something totally different as things progress. This is neither the best or the worst of it's kind.

Here's the scoop. A fledgling film maker (Patrick Brice) is hired by a guy (Mark Duplass) to document his final days, as he is dying from cancer, so his soon to be born son will know something about his father. As the time progresses the film maker thinks something isn't as it seems but is having difficulty extricating himself from the situation.

On the good side is Mark Duplass. He's an inherently likeable actor and he starts out appearing like a genuinely sweet guy telling the truth about his motives for wanting the video shot. As things progress his demeanor begins to change just enough to give you the creeps. Not bad or menacing. Just a bit creepy.

On the bad side is the found tape format. Given the way the story proceeds there is no reason to believe Brice would keep the camera rolling. Things get too out of hand. H would have dropped the camera and beat a retreat. They even had to manufacture excuses to get him in the frame for some screen time. Straight up filming would have been the better choice.

The ending is a bit of a surprise. I liked it enough I suppose.

This is a trim 82 minutes long. Smart move there. Any longer and it would have way worn out its welcome. This is a decent watch. Just don't expect too much out of it.

Price: $9.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Will We Ever Obtain Full Disclosure?, July 24, 2015
This review is from: Sirius (Amazon Instant Video)
There are a lot of UFO related documentaries about UFOs and most of the ones I've seen are pretty awful. This one isn't great but it's better than most.

Here's the scoop. This documentary centers around Dr. Steven Greer and his efforts to have the U.S. give full disclosure on UFOs. It also deals with his efforts to determine if the tiny, humanoid-ish skeleton he has access to is, in fact, human or something from another world.

This is painted in rather broad strokes. Greer begins with President Eisenhower's warning to the American public on the dangers of the military industrial complex. He feels this is at the heart of why UFOs are guarded to the degree they are. He also thinks that there are any number of inventions pertaining to free energy (as well as other things) that have been suppressed by said complex. He figures these control the money through their control of energy.

Another aspect of the documentary deals with Greer's giving rise to the term CE5 which is us (homo sapiens) initiating contact with extraterrestrials. He, along with his adherents, are shown in the desert performing a type of meditation which will draw UFOs to them. He feels he has had some degree of success in this regard. Greer carries a side arm. He is paranoid and for good reason. He lists some number of individuals that attempted to divulge UFO secrets, or file for "unpopular" patents that have been killed or simply disappeared. He figures the risk to get the truth out is worth it.

I liked the way the director moves off a subject only to return to it a while later. It helps keep things moving. As I mentioned, this is painted in broad strokes and some of the items covered needed more room to breathe. I am not a big fan of things psychic so that aspect of the documentary put me off a bit. But this is still worth viewing. It all seems so silly that the cat is out of the bag and those in power (whomever they might be) just won't give in. That smacks of something sinister. So have at it and get out of it what you will.

Cuban Fury
Cuban Fury
DVD ~ Ian McShane
Price: $13.41
55 used & new from $0.45

4.0 out of 5 stars Heels of Fire, July 24, 2015
This review is from: Cuban Fury (DVD)
As they say: Sometimes it isn't the destination but the trip itself that is important. It's the trip that makes this cookie cutter outing worth while.

Here's the scoop. Bruce (Nick Frost) fell in love with Salsa dancing at an early age. It was his life and he was great at it until some bullies beat him up and called him a pansy. He gave it all up. Now, as an adult, overweight engineer, he finds out his new, fetching, female boss is a Salsa dancer and he thinks he might want to reconsider his love of the dance.

I only know Nick Frost as Simon Pegg's hapless sidekick in "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz." But it seems he's breaking out as a writer and producer. This is a bit of an odd outing in that Salsa is at the center but neither he nor his boss (played by Rashida Jones) seems to be very good at it. They had to edit in short cuts and often film either their upper or lower halves only. As I mentioned, the story is kind of cookie cutter. It's nothing you haven't seen before. It's the characters that make this happen. Frost is good in his role. Chris O'Dowd is covered in a layer of slime. You really want to see him get his. I liked Olivia Coleman as Frost's sister Sam. Ian McShane is okay as Frost's old teacher Ron Parfitt. The big surprise was Rahida Jones' character. Frost, and his co-writer Jon Brown didn't seem to know how to play her. SHe's supposed to be a big shot American taking over management of a large, British engineering firm. She seems lost with nowhere near the ammunition she needs for the job.
This is a fun flick. It might not be quite worth the 4 stars I gave it, but it IS entertaining. Sit back with a beer and some pizza and you won't be disappointed.

Side by Side
Side by Side
DVD ~ Keanu Reeves
Price: $14.99
15 used & new from $10.25

5.0 out of 5 stars Art Meets Science, July 23, 2015
This review is from: Side by Side (DVD)
I knew much of this but only in the broadest of outlines. This fills in the blanks to the enth degree, and what a marvel it is.

Here's the scoop. Keanu Reeves interviews directors, editors, DPs, color timers and the like on their take of the movie industry's transition from being film based to going digital.

This is a very informative documentary and it's couched in the argument of film vs. digital. It's not unlike the argument audiophiles have of vinyl vs. CD or MP3. Some directors like James Cameron or David Fincher look at the advent of digital as a tool that frees them up to do pretty much whatever they want. Some other directors see it as producing an inferior image that simply cannot deliver what film delivers. DPs seem to like film a lot and they interview some of the best. Color timers seem to like digital because they can effect the tone of part of a frame with effecting the rest o the frame. Director Robert Rodriguez drives this home using "Sin City" as an example. He says he simply could not have made that movie without a digitally based system.

What is also cool here showing the history of the development of digital gear. The various companies involved in making cameras, digital editing machines, color timers and such. They take the viewer step by step on how people like George Lucas and James Cameron pushed the envelop to get better results from these tools. They show footage from various films as to how these new tools were used to enhance that particular film.

The information was great but it also got me excited to revisit many of the films to greater appreciate the strides they spoke of.

20 Feet from Stardom
20 Feet from Stardom
DVD ~ Darlene Love
Offered by Media Favorites
Price: $8.15
16 used & new from $3.75

5.0 out of 5 stars The Unsung Heroes of Rock and Roll, July 20, 2015
This review is from: 20 Feet from Stardom (DVD)
Being a musician, this really struck home. It's one of the best documentaries I've ever seen.

Here's the scoop. This film looks at essentially everything involving backup singers in rock. It deals with the evolution, the stars of the backup singers, the attempts by some of them to step into the limelight and the current state of affairs.

This is a phenomenal documentary. First is the outline. It takes you through the evolution, showing some of the earliest backup folk. Then it continually talks with the most popular of backups along with those they backed up. It features their recorded work along with live clips of them doing their thing. You hear from artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger, David Bowie et al and how they happened to come across those they chose as backup and how they felt it affected their music. As you hear from all these people you are turned on to subtle aspects of what they do, as well as how this communicated with audiences. They talked about things I might have known subconsciously but never delineated. Such as: How anyone might sing a song to themselves but were singing the backup part as opposed to the main melody. Or how the backup to the stones' "Give Me Shelter" is as important as anything else going on in the song.

One section takes the viewer through the attempts by some to enter the spotlight and how sometimes they made it. Sometimes the didn't. And sometimes they tasted it only briefly. Then there is a later section on how record companies don't want to pay for the time backup singers require in the studio to hone their work to a given artist or song. It's a sad world.

This will forever change the way you view this wholly underestimated facet of rock music. It is absolutely worth every minute you spend watching it.

Mary Kom DVD - 2014 Bollywood Movie DVD With Subtitles Region Free
Mary Kom DVD - 2014 Bollywood Movie DVD With Subtitles Region Free
DVD ~ Priyanka Chopra
Offered by Diamond Entertainment
Price: $8.28
14 used & new from $6.90

3.0 out of 5 stars Million Dollar Baby Has Nothing to Worry About, July 20, 2015
This is somewhere between "Rocky" and "Million Dollar Baby" but not as good as either.

Here's the scoop. Based on a true, and ongoing story, Mary Kom (a name given to her by her boxing trainer) is a feisty young girl living in India. She doesn't like injustice and tries to beat up guys who are mistreating their girlfriends. One fight takes her o a gym that trains boxers. The head trainer sees her toughness and willingness but won't train a woman. She changes his mind and she becomes the best female boxer in India. Bu the road is not without its bumps.

This is an okay, watchable movie. It takes the viewer through the meeting of Mary, her training, and the trials and tribulations of being a female boxer in India. But it all seems so familiar. The reluctant trainer. The training itself. The problems with trying to be successful at something while juggling a marriage and two children. For instance: The final, and longest, training sequence is set outdoors. Is it harder to do pushups on rocks as opposed to a floor? Is it harder to do any of these exercises outdoors than it is to do them indoors. This seemed to be staged strictly for the audiences edification. Then there is the scene when she's fighting for her 3rd world title while here infant son is having heart surgery. This is so blatantly aiming for the heartstrings I was surprised anyone would have the gawl to try and get away with it. The fight scenes are not all that well staged either. The women don't fight like fighters. They rarely hold their hands correctly or move correctly. It doesn't feel authentic.

Like I said, this is an okay watch. Just don't expect too much out of it.

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