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Warrior [Blu-ray]
Warrior [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Tom Hardy
Price: $5.92
47 used & new from $5.24

4.0 out of 5 stars Boy This Punch is Really Strong!, August 30, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Warrior [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Though not totally original, there's enough spin on this ball to hold the viewer's interest.

Here's the scoop. Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton) teaches high school, but his daughter's medical bills have put him in the red, He picks up mixed martial arts cage fights on the weekends for extra cash. His brother Tom (Tom Hardy) is a war hero gone AWOL who comes to town to have his father Paddy (Nick Nolte) train him for an upcoming elimination match with a huge purse. Dad is seriously disliked by both brothers in spite of the fact he's cleaned up his act. Both brothers need the dough and must claw their way up the elimination.

I liked this film a lot. The cast is outstanding. All do a stand up job and have some great lines to chew on. Jennifer Morrison, as Joel's wife is good but her role is a bit on the cliche side. Frank Grillo, as Joel's trainer is also very good. He delivers his lines with a great ease. I believed him totally. One does need to suspend their disbelief to a reasonable degree here. That both brothers would make the cut to enter this expensive, widely televised event does strain credulity. But the back stories are good and and are meted out at regular intervals to keep the viewer in the game. The relationship between the two brothers and their father is really good. No warm fuzzies here.

The directing is efficient and the production values are on par with the content. It's a very professional endeavor.

For what it is, it's about as good as you're likely to see.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
DVD ~ Steve Carell
Offered by Media Favorites
Price: $7.29
29 used & new from $3.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Still Seeking, August 28, 2015
Road pictures are a staple in films. Like any other genre they achieve varying degrees of success. This one is watchable but it probably won't stick with you.

Here's the scoop. The earth has about three weeks before it gets whacked by a giant meteor. Sad sack Dodge (Steve Carell) finds out all too late that a woman he loved many ears prior wants to hook up again before all goes black. He has little time and is angry because he could have acted sooner had his neighbor, Penny (Keira Knightley), given him the letter, that was put in her mailbox, sooner instead of holding onto it. But because she's such a mess with issues of low self esteem, he melts inside and figures he can get her to England to see her family and, on the way, find his girl.

This is an okay watch. But things go wrong at the script level. First is Carell's character Dodge. He's so down trodden it's no wonder his wife left him and it IS a wonder he hasn't already committed suicide. Then there is the relationship between him and Knightley that is supposed to escalate as the movie progresses. It's a weak progression. I'm guessing that writer/director Larene Scafaria was going for something more subtle as opposed to succumbing to Hollywood type "aha!" moments that dot many of these kinds of films. Nice try, but it didn't work. These two reach their ultimate friendship but I just didn't feel it. It needed more. And the dog. He was little more than a prop. I don't why Scafaria bothered. I liked her script for "Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist" much better.

One of he best things going is one of the final scenes when Dodge faces his long absentee father played by Martin Sheen. This is probably the best exchange in the movie and the strongest scene for Carell. But all the acting is good and the production is as good as it had to be to get the job done. It just wasn't a great job.

Anyway....This is a decent watch. I wasn't looking at the clock which is a good thing. It didn't overstay its welcome. So enjoy it. Just don't expect a life changing experience.

Jesus Camp
Jesus Camp
DVD ~ Mike Papantonio
Price: $10.00
82 used & new from $1.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Save This one for Halloween, August 27, 2015
This review is from: Jesus Camp (DVD)
There is always that chance that a documentary film maker is leaving footage on the cutting room floor that negates his/her point of view. I'm sure that must have been done here but I cannot imagine what would get cut that could possible lessen the horror on display here.

Here's the scoop. Evangelical Christian Becky Fischer opens a camp for children called (and I kid you not) "Kids On Fire" that is located (and I still kid you not) at "Devil's Lake" South Dakota. Here they are helped to solidify their faith in Jesus and learn to become preachers. The viewer gets to watch the paces these young ones are taken through to achieve this goal.

This is some scary stuff. All I could think of, while watching these kids get indoctrinated, was how you could get them to believe and do anything at that young age. They could be Hitler Youth or Islamic Terrorists or any other anything that does not come naturally. As it's been said. racism needs to be taught. A person won't come by it naturally. And seeing these kids shaking, crying, speaking in tongues and what not only intensifies the horror. Some might charge "clever editing" as the tool for swaying the audience, but there are a lot of long takes showing the viewer exactly what is going on. Things that could not be edited to suit the film makers. And, said film makers, did a very smart thing by showing a devout Christian radio host during his show. He's as Christian as the day is long and even he realizes this is not good. Theses kids are being used by this woman.

This needs to be seen. We're at a critical point in this country where Evangelical Christianity is on the prowl for a power grab and is, in some cases, succeeding. We're becoming a divided country and this isn't helping matters. Some facts and figures are given here, along with some now historical events, that will give you pause. This WILL put the fear of God in you.

DVD ~ James Gandolfini
Price: $18.81
37 used & new from $7.90

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars They Never Saw Bob Coming., August 27, 2015
This review is from: Drop (DVD)
This is a crime thriller but with a nifty spin on the ball.

Here's the scoop. Marv, (James Gandolfini) owned a bar in Brooklyn and his younger cousin Bob (Tom Hardy) tended said bar. Now Marv merely manages the place for some Chechen nogoodniks. They are a drop bar, which means that sometimes mob guys drop their ill gotten gains there to be later picked up by more important mob guys. One night they are robbed at gunpoint and it sets off a series of not very cool events that the two cousins need to deal with. Meanwhile, Bob rescues a puppy that erupts into an entirely different drama. And the hits just keep on coming.

This is a nifty flick for a number of reasons. First is the Tom Hardy's Bob. He almost seems intellectually challenged but it might be an act. If he were as stupid as he appears he shouldn't know that people from Chechnya are called "Chechens" and not "Chechnyans." Little things like that crop up around him. His rescuing the dog starts a maybe relationship with Noomi Repace. Their slow coming together offers its own rewards. Then there's the scary and, more than likely crazy, Eric Deeds, played with the creep dial set to 11 by Matthias Schoenaerts. I don't even want to be in the same zip code as this guy. But I liked the way the story unfolds. Little by little the clues are meted out that suggest that all isn't as it seems to be. Gandolfini demonstrates his usual ease in front of the camera. He has a good character and he plays him well. John Ortiz plays the detective. Another interesting character. Not the heavy, tough guy. His approach is more subtle and he has more patience.

When the cards are on the table, and all that is left is to see how they'll be played, things get really nifty. Surprises abound and the audience gets a chance at a heavy sigh. I found it, and the post script very satisfying. The directing, by Michael Roskam, is generally straight forward, but very smooth. There were a couple of peculiarly odd camera angles thrown in now and then but nothing that ruined the overall.

All in all I found this to be a very satisfying crime thriller that should hold up under repeat viewings. If these types of films are your poison, this should put you six feet under.

Awake Season 1
Awake Season 1
Price: $19.99

4.0 out of 5 stars The Fundamental Interconnectedness of All Things, August 23, 2015
So says Dirk Gently, Douglas Adams' loopy detective. This series dabbles in this same sensibility.

Here's the scoop. L.A. detective Michael Britton (Jason Isaacs) is in a car accident that kills his son and/or his wife. He can't tell because after a night's sleep he wakes up and one or the other is still alive. He lives alternately in both worlds and continues to work cases but his partner in each world is different. Tiny things show up in one world that tip him to solutions of his cases in the other. Neither of his partners gets his logic and thinks he might be going round the bend, but he DOES solve the cases and gets hints as to what really caused his car accident.

I liked this a lot. It's a good idea with a lot of potential to go and explore many ideas. I am surprised Isaacs, one of the show's producers, held it to only 13 episodes. Like "The X Files" and "Fringe", once you secure the set-up, there are any number of places to go. The cases are generally pretty good and they blend in his predicament well as he struggles to make each world work with his son and wife. Seemingly tiny and obscure things ring through time and space as they clue him to some other case and finally the case that set this whole scenario in motion to begin with. He also sits with a shrink in each reality who insist his other world is a fabricated one keeping him away from coping with the one they're in. But all this sets him on the path to solve the most important case which is where we find if he really is nuts or, like "12 Monkeys" truth is stranger than fiction.

Isaacs and all the supporting cast do a fine job. The production values are as good as they need to be. There was one sub par episode which played more like a sappy life lesson. It wasn't a case and didn't further the story. I don't know what was on their minds with that one. And the ending is a total cop-out. The viewer has no clue as to why this should be and it seems as though they just wanted everything to be real nice for our hero. That aside, this is still a really cool and enjoyable series.

Wanted on Voyage
Wanted on Voyage
Price: $11.99
69 used & new from $5.67

4.0 out of 5 stars Not the Same Old, August 16, 2015
This review is from: Wanted on Voyage (Audio CD)
A lawyer in the music industry said you can get any one out of ten people to sing as well as Frank Sinatra. What the record industry finds more valuable are people who can write good songs. George Ezra is a good song writer.

"Budapest" was the song that prompted me to plops me money down for this release. I am glad I did. "Budapest" is a great song and I also like Ezra's voice. Like a lot of singer/song-writers he writes for his own voice and it's a nice match. He seems to have reached a great comfort level between the two. His rhythms and vocal phrasing work very well. I have a difficult time comparing him to another artist to help me guide another listener to his style I guess that's a good thing. All I can say is he sounded very American to me. Not in a blues sense, but there was no trace of British, Spanish or other rooting.

One thing that did bother was, that as the CD progressed, my mind started to drift. It wasn't that the songs near the end were less good than those at the beginning. It was the production that started to wear thin. There needed to be more texture. Maybe some back-up vocals during the choruses, or a wider variety of instruments to flesh things out some. The scope here was just too narrow.

That being said, this is still a heck of a release. Anyone looking for a more adult-minded artist might want to give this guy a listen.

Staten Island Summer
Staten Island Summer
Price: $3.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Poor Man's "Caddyshack", August 13, 2015
This is pretty much an SNL outing, produced by Lorne Michaels, and starring a few of the SNL alumni. It's pretty dumb and disjointed but it's fun nonetheless.

Here's the scoop. Set at a community pool, Danny Campbell (Graham Phillips) is a few days from heading off to Harvard. He's worked at the pool every summer since forever and wants to attend the unauthorized staff party one more time before his life changes. It proves a tougher task than one might imagine.

Not unlike "Caddyshack" the viewer is introduced to the people, both workers and locals, at the pool in both their day to day as well as their plans for pulling off the big bash. "Caddyshack," though had better characters and a lot of quotable lines. This.....not so much. Most of these characters are more 'type' than people. The young guys are sex starved. The boss is the bad guy without a clue. The local cops don't mind supplying the underage folks with liquor and illegal fireworks. The black guys deal drugs and the pool has a resident middle aged hottie looking for some younger action. The story outline is broad with enough elbow room to stage a bunch of skits. Some work better than others. What saves this from being a total waste of time are some of the characters. They are at least likeable so you don't mind following their exploits.

Much of the writing, particularly the dialogue and story progression, is clunky. When they need to spell stuff out for you, you know they're reaching for a lower common denominator. Much of the action centers around the pool so the budget must have been manageable. The music is pretty cool and Graham Campbell helps temper the craziness that keeps erupting.

This is a fun flick if you leave your brains at the door.

Skeleton Twins
Skeleton Twins
DVD ~ Luke Wilson
Price: $7.50
56 used & new from $1.49

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars There's a Lot of Meat on These Bones., August 8, 2015
This review is from: Skeleton Twins (DVD)
If you would have told me, 10 years ago, that I would be seeing this kind of movie, and it starred Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, I would have said you were nuts. it is.

Here's the scoop. Milo (Bill Hader) has had his suicide attempt thwarted. His sister Maggie (Kristen Wiig), while attempting suicide herself, gets the call and flies from her home in New York, to L.A. to see him. It's been 10 years since they've seen each other. She hauls him back to New York to stay awhile and meet her husband Lance (Luke Wilson). They have a lot to catch up on and wounds to heal. It's a rough road.

This certainly isn't a great movie but I liked it a lot. First is Bill Hader playing a gay, failed actor. I thought he did an outstanding job. He didn't look like a caricature. He seemed genuine. Then there is Kristen Wiig. This isn't her first dramatic outing and she's really coming along. There were some Wiigisms present but she kept them to a minimum. The two of them together really spark. The "Heart to Heart" scene, as one example, is priceless. Along with the "Heart to Heart" scene, Hader and Wiig have a blow-up scene that really explodes. The scene is triggered by her discovering a continuation of something that happened to Milo many years prior involving a teacher of Milo's played by Ty Burrell. Luke Wilson is okay. His character didn't have quite the depth as Hader and Wiig. His constant eating of garbage food seemed more type than anything else.

As in most indy outings, this is all writing and acting. All else is kept to a minimum. What you have here are two damaged people trying to find their way. It's painful but ultimately uplifting. These two siblings love one another and realize they need each other to help make their way in the world. There are things in the film that don't work but, compared to the overall quality of the story and performances they are of minor importance.

See it.

Ex Machina (Blu-ray + Digital HD)
Ex Machina (Blu-ray + Digital HD)
DVD ~ Oscar Isaac
Price: $14.99
41 used & new from $9.95

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To Be Human, August 7, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Now and then you run across one of those movies that just plain does it for you and blows your mind at the same time. This is that movie for me.

Here's the scoop. A bright young programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) is selected, by his obscenely rich employer (Oscar Isaac), to interview a female modeled A.I. droid to determine if she does, in fact, have consciousness. The process turns out to be crazier and more revealing than he could ever have imagined.

This is one of the smartest movies I have ever seen. I understand the the field of A.I. is coming into its own right now but I never really thought exactly what that involved. This film examines it in a big way. All the subtleties of human thought and experience are brought to light in any number of ways. Even something as basic as responding to music through dance floods the viewer with the wonder of being human. It's also a clever script in how this examination weaves itself into the plot. The ending should send chills up your spine and it opens the door for a sequel. It's set, almost entirely, in the boss's compound so the budget (an estimated 15 million) was manageable. And this is one of those gems where the special effects enhanced the plot as opposed to dominating everything. The music score was generally good but was overbearing at times. Oscar Isaac is outstanding. He's proving himself as an actor to keep an eye on. We've yet to see his best. Gleeson is a less dynamic character here, but he handles his role equally well. Alicia Vikander, as the droid Ava, is outstanding. Even the way she walks is spot on. Very natural but with just enough hesitancy to tip the fact she's a droid.

There is a bit of female nudity but it's not made to arouse, but to marvel at the grace of the human form. Let your kids see this. It will prompt them to become programmers, artists, philosophers, environmental advocates and God only knows what else. Writer/director Alex Garland has penned some notable scripts but this is his first time as director and you wouldn't know it. He does an outstanding job.

See this movie.

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation [Blu-ray]
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Tom Cruise
Price: $24.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Best of the Series., August 5, 2015
The last "Mission Impossible" installment was very good, but the first two were so terrible I didn't even consider seeing this one. My wife actually wanted to see it and heard the reviews were good so I figured why not? I was glad I saw it.

Here's the scoop. The I.M. team, at the behest of the C.I.A. is being shut down by the government. Ethan Hunt thinks he's on the verge of nailing "The Syndicate" when they have, in fact, trumped the I.M. team. He now needs to fight uphill to keep the team in place and turn the tables on "The Syndicate."

This is a densely plotted action-packed thriller. Writer/director Chris McQuarrie has come a long way since penning "The Usual Suspects." This plot has more turns than the Pennsylvania turnpike and the action scenes are choreographed and directed exceptionally well. Also of note is the sound mixing and editing. It's as good as I've ever experienced in any film. Some might figure it's mixed a bit (maybe more than a bit) on the heavy side and I can't say I'd disagree, but I thought it added to the overall experience. The turns in the plot are clever. I had to keep the old noggin alert, particularly where the Ilsa Faust character was concerned. Certain things she did said she had to be a "good guy," but it was difficult to reconcile some other things she did while holding that opinion.

Simon Pegg steps out of his comfort zone here and turns in a genuinely fine performance. Cruise is decent and doesn't hog the screen time. All the other principal actors do a fine job. The music is good and all the other production values are on par with the budget.

If you're looking for a smart, exciting movie, this should do you just fine.

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