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M. Oleson RSS Feed (Fort Worth, TX USA)
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Rock the Kasbah
Rock the Kasbah
DVD ~ Bill Murray
Price: $14.96
48 used & new from $5.35

3.0 out of 5 stars 2 1/2 stars for a sometimes funny (but usually not) disappointment., April 30, 2016
This review is from: Rock the Kasbah (DVD)
I doubt if there was a mainstream movie from 2015 that was lambasted more by critics (8% on the Tomatometer) than this comedy. So going in I had very low expectations. But with a stellar cast, I figured what the hell. Bill Murray is the one redeeming value in the film, but even he only elicits a handful of laughs. He plays Richie Lanz, a washed up talent manager, who may or may not have once been well known. As his sunset years approach his only “act” is singer Ronnie (Zooey Deschanel), whose best gigs are in local bars.

With some coaching from a drunk in the audience, he decides to take Ronnie and go to Afghanistan and “play for the troops.” Ronnie is unconvinced but goes along, but once arriving she decides this isn’t her idea of fun. She takes Richie’s passport (?) and money and gets out of Kabul on the next camel with help from an American mercenary (?) played by Bruce Willis. We never see her again. Richie can’t get a passport from the Embassy for 2-weeks (?) so he finds some companionship with a couple of small arms dealers (Danny McBride & Scott Caan) who give him the opportunity to run some guns to a tribal leader out in the suburbs.

Richie also finds solace and companionship with Merci (Kate Hudson), a prostitute who lives in a trailer behind a picket fence. Yes Kate Hudson’s character is so hard up she has to go to Afghanistan to sell herself (?). In one scene, she has to close up shop early so she tells the waiting line of a dozen men or so, “no STD’s today, sorry.”

When Richie hits the village a couple hours away with his guns for sale, he’s invited to stay over, along with his cab driver (Arian Moayed) who also acts as his translator. He hears a young woman singing late at night. She’s singing Cat Stevens’ classics and has a beautiful voice. So Richie gets the bright idea to enter her into Kabul’s TV talent show, their version of “American Idol.” But, that’s a no-no in Kabul, let alone in rural Afghanistan.

The biggest problem with this Barry Levinson bomb is that it is directionless, both literally and figuratively. Once in a while a little serious talk creeps in. Richie begins to doubt his own self-worth. Characters drift in and out. Guns aren’t fired when they most likely would have been. Guns are fired out of the blue. Is the movie as bad as everyone suggest? Well, no, at least for me. Is it a good movie? Oh, hell no. As soon as it hits free TV go ahead and watch. You’ll only be out 106 minutes of your life.


Epson Expression XP-410 Wireless Color All-in-One Inkjet Printer
Epson Expression XP-410 Wireless Color All-in-One Inkjet Printer
Offered by ZTECK
Price: $187.49
38 used & new from $69.99

1.0 out of 5 stars Environmental hazard, April 30, 2016
This Epson XP-410 has a promising start. It is relatively inexpensive, compact and produces decent print for its price. The problem comes when it is time to replace the ink cartridges. The cost of Epson brand ink cartridges is about the same as buying a new printer. I tried using generic cartridges which are substantially less expensive, but the printer won't accept them. This is one of the biggest rip offs in retail. So I've relegated this printer to the junk pile. For less than the price of replacement ink, I just bought a similar Canon printer.


Minions (Blu-ray + DVD + DIGITAL HD)
Minions (Blu-ray + DVD + DIGITAL HD)
DVD ~ Sandra Bullock
Offered by Mr Moovie
Price: $14.99
74 used & new from $5.84

3.0 out of 5 stars (BLU RAY REVIEW) 2 1/2 stars. The cute yellow dudes will keep the youngsters entertained...grown ups, not so much., April 25, 2016
Although my kids are well beyond the age of watching just-for-kids movies and my grandkids live far away, I still take in an occasional animated flick. Often they are very funny and have rewarding stories and/or good songs. So here is this spin-off of characters first appearing in the “Despicable Me” films. The story starts way, way back when Minions first evolved, essentially to help the most uh, despicable creatures. Things like T-Rex dinosaurs, Dracula and Egyptian pharaohs. Unfortunately their help often resulting in their demise.

So searching the globe for the most evil person, they come across super villain, Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock) and sign up to secure the British Crown (literally, the crown). Three Minions are on the task, Bob, Kevin and Stuart. The rest of the story is the usual cartoon silliness without much in the way of adult humor. I just didn’t get the appeal, at least for grown-ups. This one is strictly for the kiddies.

The Blu ray looks terrific however. Using a 1080p video resolution with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the transfer fleshes out a detailed and colorful picture. The bright yellow Minions in their blue dungarees as well as Scarlet’s bright red dress are sparklingly excellent. No one should complain about the way the movie looks. It’s great! The audio is first rate as well. It comes with a Dolby Atmos track for those fortunate enough to have the gear to decode it. For those of us who don’t (yet), it will default to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, a beautiful, lossless option. One of the fun things in the movie is the soundtrack which includes numerous songs from the 60’s and 70’s. I kept myself entertained trying to guess the artists. The surrounds are in constant play and the dialog/gibberish is well placed, clear and precise. Subtitles come in French, Spanish and English SDH. Here are the extras:
• Deleted Scene
• Trailer
• Short Animated Films
• Featurettes
• Interactive Map
• DVD Copy
• UltraViolet Digital Copy


The Huntsman: Winter's War [Blu-ray]
The Huntsman: Winter's War [Blu-ray]
Price: $19.96

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 2 1/2 stars. Frozen 2: Freeze Harder, April 25, 2016
Theatrical review. Possible spoilers. As is seemingly the case more often than not, another sequel comes to the silver screen. But “The Huntsman” is not only a sequel but a prequel thanks to some back and forward flashing. While it is missing Snow White herself (no Kristen Stewart), but for a glance at her back, it adds a quartet of filmdom’s “A” list hotties. Hunky Eric (Chris Hemsworth) the “Huntsman” returns as does the evil Ravenna (Charlize Theron), thought to be dispatched in the 2012 “Snow White and the Huntsman.” We should know better.

We find out a little backstory about how Revenna and her kid sister Freya (Emily Blunt) part ways. Revenna…uh…discourages “love” in her kingdom (shouldn’t it be called a queendom?). When Freya falls for a young man and becomes preggers, the resulting birth produces a girl who dies in a fire, sending Freya into an icy fit, which just happens to be her secret weapon. She decides to start her own fiefdom. With Revenna killed in the last story, Freya wants Snow White’s territory as well. To help her in her efforts, she raids the nearby villages and enslaves the youngsters, raising them to be her warrior army. Kind of like Ms. Theron’s character Furiosa in the last “Mad Max” movie.

One of those captured is young Eric who becomes one of the best soldiers along with fellow captive, Sara (Jessica Chastain). It doesn’t take a see’er to figure out where that’s going. If you are wondering how the producers managed to lure all of this talent into the film, not to mention Liam Neeson who provides some clarifying narration, they are rarely on screen at the same time. The ladies all pop in for a few scenes then disappear for long periods. The film looks terrific all the same. Granted it’s all CGI generated beauty but still beautiful.

Queen Freya by the way does have much in common with Elsa in the animated “Frozen” but I don’t think I’d recommend this film for the kiddies. Alas, this frozen fluff is an overly complex and convoluted story complete with actors competing for the most over-the-top award. I would suggest you just let it go.


99 Homes
99 Homes
DVD ~ Andrew Garfield
Price: $12.99
41 used & new from $5.21

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A topical film showing the housing colapse and its effect on homeowners., April 21, 2016
This review is from: 99 Homes (DVD)
This film like others before it gives an up-close-and-personal look at the housing crisis which led to the economic collapse of 2008. Unlike other films such as the terrific “The Big Short,” Ramin Bahrani’s film takes a closer look at how some of the repercussions effected everyday people caught in the trap, rather than the intricacies of how it all happened.

The film opens in what appears to be a long tracking shot of real estate investor, Rick Carver (Michael Shannon, great again) effecting a foreclosure on a family of 4. Alas the father had committed suicide, leaving his wife to deal with the after effects of having no place to live. Carver is seemingly immune to what is going on, walking past police, ignoring the family and talking on the phone about his next foreclosure. We hate Carver right off the back and throughout the film there is little reason to think otherwise. Yet, he is no one-dimensional villain. He once was a respected broker who “put people into homes” as he tells us. He’s adapting to the circumstances. Shannon pulls this off well.

Soon Carver is at another home with a couple deputy sheriffs to evict Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), his mother, Lynn (Laura Dern) and 12-year old son, Connor (Noah Lomax). Nash has lost his construction job and is 3 months behind on his mortgage. This is the home he grew up in. In a well-orchestrated “coincidence,” Nash meets up with Carver again and eventually goes to work for him. So the question becomes how far Nash will go, knowing how he felt when it happened to him.

We also learn how crooked investors and real estate agents co-opted Fannie Mae by removing appliances and then selling them back. That one pissed me off as much as anything. Deflected as just sticking it to the government, who do you think pays for all that chicanery? Yeah, taxpayers. The film is well made, with fine performances. Some of the photography gives the viewer a you-are-there-feel without much of the jerky camera effect. If I had a nit to pick, it’s how when the time comes for eviction, every home owner seems surprised and unwilling to leave peacefully. Didn’t they know this was coming? Yes, they did. In any case, the film provides a look many others did not. The personal aspects of new homelessness. Recommended.


The Jungle Book (2016) (Plus Bonus Features)
The Jungle Book (2016) (Plus Bonus Features)
DVD
Price: $19.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 4 1/2 stars for a beautiful, entertaining recreation of Kiplings story., April 21, 2016
Theatrical review. I haven’t seen the original animated Disney film from 1967 in several years but went back to look at my review notes. While I thought the animation and story was very good, it was clearly targeted at the youngest of kids. This new mix, helmed by Jon Favereau (“Iron Man”) introduces live action in the form of Mowgli (Neel Sethi, in a wonderful debut). Everything else is created on the computer including some very realistic looking wild animals from the Indian jungle. Realistic except they talk of course.

In case you don’t know the story, Mowgli was orphaned as a toddler after his father was killed by a tiger named Shere Khan (a scary Idris Elba). The youngster was found by a panther, Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) and taken to a pack of wolves to raise. The foster parents are Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o) and Akela (Giancarlo Esposito). We find Mowgli reaching an age (about 10) where he really doesn’t fit in with the wolves or the jungle for that matter. After some soul searching, it is decided he should be escorted to the village of men to live with his own kind.

Shere Khan, hates the humans for many reasons and especially the son of the man who burned out his eye. So he stalks Mowgli in an attempt to kill him before he reaches the village. Bagheera is taking the boy to the village, but Mowgli becomes separated when the 2 big cats confront each other. Mowgli becomes ensnarled by a viper with a come-hither voice (Scarlett Johansson), and is rescued by Baloo (Bill Murray), a happy go lucky bear. The pair partner up, with Baloo offering protection and an escort in exchange for Mowgli helping secure honey.

Unlike the original version this PG rated film offers up several instances of potential trauma, mostly created by Elba’s tiger who lives near the top of the food chain (everyone respects the elephant). Some younger kids might get a little scared. What makes this movie special are the beautiful, creative graphics. Kudo’s to young Neel as well who must do his acting without seeing the characters he must play off. I could find little in the way of undercutting the visual trickery. Every voice-actor is well cast in their roles with Murray as Baloo, a real comedic treat. The film is colorful, imaginative, entertaining and one of the best family films in recent memory. And my family is all grown and it works for me. Highly recommended.


We Are Your Friends (DVD)
We Are Your Friends (DVD)
DVD ~ Zac Efron
Price: $9.96
37 used & new from $6.20

3.0 out of 5 stars Cliched and predictable but not that bad, April 16, 2016
This review is from: We Are Your Friends (DVD) (DVD)
Zac Efron is well suited in his role as an aspiring EDM DJ. Most of his time is spent hanging out with his 3 buddies, all in their early 20’s. He actually lives with one, Mason (Johnny Weston) and his parents. He helps out around the house and gets to sleep on the couch. This by-the-numbers coming-of-age (is 23 too old to be still coming?) drama features the usual check offs. Cole (Efron) is the passionate one, Mason, the surly rebel, Ollie (Shiloh Fernandez) is the druggie and Squirrel (Shiloh Fernandez), is the shy, thoughtful one.

When Cole meets an older more established DJ in James (Wes Bentley), he finds someone to emulate. James is also living with his personal assistant Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski) and Cole can’t take his eyes off her. So check off another box. We know where that’s going. It’s just a matter of time before the rest of the rote events take place. When will the rage of Mason be exposed? Who will become the tragic figure? In a side story, the boys go to work for a sleezy mortgage “consultant” (Jon Bernthal) whose job is to prey upon poor people who are about to lose their home through foreclosure. That plot point seems to have been established only to show the altruistic side of Cole.

Director Max Joseph gets his first shot at directing a conventional film after several shorts and documentaries and shows some promise. I’m always a sucker for slick sets and James’s home is pretty slick. He also has a way with an inventive use of images. In one scene at James’s house, Cole is given some PCP which provides some hallucinogenic animated visions as the colors slowly envelops those around him. There is also a terrific soundtrack with the film. That, assuming you don’t hate electronic dance music. Even though this film is not on Blu ray domestically, the DVD’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, kept my toes tappin’. If you can get past the clichés and predictability, it ain’t all that bad.


Every Secret Thing
Every Secret Thing
DVD ~ Diane Lane
Price: $9.99
45 used & new from $1.23

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An overly complicated police procedural., April 15, 2016
This review is from: Every Secret Thing (DVD)
In case there is any question, women, young and old, can do bad things just like the men. This movie provides a fictional example. One of the strongest promoters of this film is Frances McDormand (“Olive Kitteridge”), its producer. Nicole Holofcener (“Enough Said”) wrote the screenplay based on Laura Lippman’s novel. It is directed by documentarian Amy Berg (“West of Memphis”) and has a terrific cast of women in the key roles.

The story involves a pair of 11-year old girls who, on their way home, find a baby crying in her carriage on the front porch of a house. With no adult in sight, they pick up the girl and take her to their “secret” room inside a forested area of their town. They originally though they could mother the kid, but soon lose interest with horrible results. Both girls are put in juvenile detention for 7 years and are now free. Ronnie (Dakota Fanning, “The Twilight Sagas”) works part time at a bagel store and struggles with her life. Her parents are the kind you’re glad you never had.

Alice (Danielle Macdonald, “The East”) is, well…on the robust side. She’s always walking around town with her Big Gulp. She doesn’t have a job but is constantly pushed to find one by her mother Helen (Diane Lane, “Man of Steel”). That coupling alone is a head scratcher. An overweight girl, with curly blond hair is the daughter of this sleek wisp of a woman? On top of that Helen is also a respected elementary school teacher. When a 3 year old girl disappears from a furniture store, detectives Nancy Porter (Elizabeth Banks, “The Hunger Games”) and Kevin Jones (Nate Parker, “Non-Stop”) are called in to investigate. Porter was a rookie cop who actually found the baby, 7 years earlier. The event still plays on her mind. She wants to pull out all the stops to find the 3 year old before harm befalls her. Guess who the prime suspects are?

The movie is dark and very unglamorous, adding to the already depressing tone. I’m pretty sure there is not a smile to be found in the film’s thankfully brief 93 minute running time. It is a pretty good procedural however and provides enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. At least for a little while. Experienced mystery solvers will figure it out early on as the little secrets are released in drips and drabs. I found the film to be a slow-burning psychological mystery, often coaxing the characters to just get on with it. A couple surprises at the end provide the proper context to an overly complicated story.


All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records [Blu-ray]
All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Elton John
Price: $26.99
16 used & new from $24.70

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A nostalgic, bittersweet look at the great Tower Records., April 13, 2016
Tower Records began life in 1960 in Sacramento with Russ Solomon at the helm. He was the son of a hypothecary who dabbled in used records. This documentary helmed by Colin Hanks provides an opportunity for Solomon and the numerous men and women who began their working lives at one of the record stores and stayed until the bitter end in bankruptcy in 2006. One thing is clear. They loved working at the store and they loved Solomon.

The film takes us from those early days of expansion in California to global expansion. It takes us from 45-singles to cassette tapes to vinyl albums to CD’s and various other media that went away quickly. It’s pretty clear that vinyl gets most of the love although those early days of CD seemed promising. A smaller disc, with no pops or crackles. Numerous luminaries provide some personal stories. People like Elton John, who insists he spent more money at Tower than anyone ever. We also here from Dave Grohl and Bruce Springsteen and others. Celebs frequented the stores on a regular basis.

Eventually, some bad financial decisions and the oncoming wave of digital singles, MP3’s and streaming combined to doom the once highly profitable company. As one who lived through the era and spent a lot of time flipping through record bins, I wiped away a tear or two. Fortunately, vinyl records are having a comeback and I still have my old collection.


Freeheld  [Blu-ray + Digital HD]
Freeheld [Blu-ray + Digital HD]
DVD ~ Julianne Moore
Price: $24.99
41 used & new from $8.22

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars (BLU RAY REVIEW) 3.5 Stars. Another brilliant performance by Julianne Moore in this true story of fairness and equality., April 13, 2016
Possible spoilers. Director Peter Sollett certainly shifts gears after his last film, “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” with this true story of equality and fairness. He’s aided by screenwriter, Ron Nyswaner whose first script (“Philadelphia”) got him an Oscar nod. Laurel Hester (Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”) is a 40-something New Jersey detective who has 23 years on the force and partners with Dane Wells (Michael Shannon, “The Iceman”). Laurel is a tightly closeted lesbian given her profession and the era (mid-2000’s). Even Dane doesn’t know.

Needing a change, she signs up for a volleyball team. She’s not very good but meets one of the other players, Stacie Andree (Ellen Page, “Juno”). They become close even with their age difference and eventually become legal “domestic partners” and buy a house together. When Laurel becomes seriously ill with a fast growing cancer, she applies to have her police pension go to Stacie. Under the law at the time, the decision must come from the county freeholders, their term for councilmen. Basically the 5 straight white men run the county government. They vote no.

Laurel begins a campaign, supported by Dane, a newspaper reporter and a Jewish gay man, Steven Goldstein (Steve Carell). Not only is Carell miscast in this role but Goldstein becomes a shocking addition, a stark shift from the quiet sensibilities of Laurel, Stacie, Dane and their internal support group. He’s loud, obnoxious and has his own agenda - gay marriage. Laurel’s fight is for equal treatment. She doesn’t have time to fight for the marriage component.

Eventually, the freemen come to their senses especially after some are exposed for having more than one government pension coming. Sollett can be criticized for his casting choice of Carell, but Page, Moore and Shannon are terrific. I would have liked to see a bit more of Stacie and a lot less of Goldstein. And yes, the film manipulates the audience’s emotions and has a clear, one-sided viewpoint. Fortunately it is the right side.

The Blu ray disc comes with a 1080p video resolution and a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The transfer is excellent. Shot with digital cameras, the movie has a very natural look to it. Moore’s numerous freckles are clearly visible as well as a few wrinkles. Kudos to the film’s makeup department for transforming Laurel as she begins to show the clear signs of the advancing cancer. The film doesn’t explode with color but that is certainly appropriate for the story. The audio has a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and is also very good. It doesn’t overextend the dynamics and is focused primarily on the dialog up front. A few scenes (beach, dance hall) give the surrounds an opportunity to quietly sound off, and the violin-laden score is well placed. Subtitles come in Spanish and English SDH. Extras include a commentary track with Sollett, Moore and Page, a making of piece, and some interviews including the real Stacie. Finally, there is the Oscar winning “Freeheld” documentary short that’s worth a look.


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