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Time of the Wolf
Time of the Wolf
DVD ~ Isabelle Huppert
20 used & new from $5.99

3.0 out of 5 stars French post-apocalyptical drama, September 15, 2014
This review is from: Time of the Wolf (DVD)
French director/screenwriter Michael Haneke, as he did later with "White Ribbon (2009) and "Amour" (2012), provides a glimpse of what would come later in this depressing, if perhaps accurate, post-apocalyptical future. We don't ever learn what happened but with contaminated water, a nuke would be likely.

Set in France, the Laurent family, from the "city," have escaped to the country where they own a cottage. Upon arrival, the house is occupied by another family. Before a compromise is worked out, the patriarch is shot and killed by the squatters. Allowed to leave, the mother, Anne (Isabelle Huppert) with her daughter Eva (Anais Demoustier), about 13 and son, Ben (Lucas Biscombe), about 10, start walking. After a couple restless and frightening nights, they stumble upon a boy about 15 (Hakim Taleb) who guides them to a building adjacent to a working railroad. They hope to stop the train which would shuttle them to a safer environment.

The small camp is occupied by similarly distressed people. They have little to drink, eat or to barter with. A village nearby is run by thugs who trade essentials (water) for material items. The film focuses on the Laurents although Anne is fairly overcome by the events, especially losing her husband. She is ill-prepared to take care of herself or the kids. Ben is fragile as well, having lost his pet parakeet and having a constantly bleeding nose. Eva is growing up quickly and frankly, the best scenes are between her and the young runaway boy. She is looking for a friend but he is distant and afraid of the controlling group.

The film isn't breaking new ground, but is another example of possible social interaction where we quickly learn that man is just another animal. The film is well made if a little dreary. I can't say that I was ever invested in the characters, except for Eva and that there is never any resolution to it all.


Dead Zone, The
Dead Zone, The
DVD ~ Christopher Walken
Price: $11.58
35 used & new from $5.94

4.0 out of 5 stars A taut psychological thriller, September 11, 2014
This review is from: Dead Zone, The (DVD)
Stephen King's name gets top billing (based on his novel) on this DVD although the film was written by Jeffrey Boam, directed by David Cronenberg and produced by Debra Hill out of Dino De Laurnetiis' production company. Well, who cares, the film is a winner.

Christopher Walken stars as Johnny Smith, a school teacher about to marry fellow teacher, Sarah Bracknell (Brooke Adams). After dropping her off at home, Johnny takes a pass on spending the night, even with Sarah's encouragement, especially as a violent rainstorm had developed. As Johnny says, "Some things are worth waiting for." Well, as it turns out, he should have accepted her invitation. One his way home he has a horrible wreck with an 18-wheeler and ends up in a 5 year coma. Upon his awakening, he discovers Sarah had "Cleaved to another man" as his mother (Jackie Burroughs) tells him. She also has a 10 month old son.

As a result - or perhaps because of - his accident, Johnny has an ability to see into the future after holding on to the hand of another person (living or dead as he will find out). One of the side effects however is that he is physically weakened. His doctor (Herbert Lom) becomes Johnny's confidant and friend. Johnny helps the local sheriff (Tom Skerritt) solve a string of serial murders but the gift/curse causes him mental torment, so he moves to another town under an assumed name. He becomes a tutor and through one of his pupil's father meets Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen) running for the U. S. Senate but who has his sights set on the presidency. As it turns out, Sarah and her husband are both supporting Stillson. After shaking Stillson's hand, Johnny sees a horrible future at the hands of President Stillson. Johnny has the opportunity to not only see the future, but change it. So he struggles as to what to do. "The Dead Zone" is a taut psychological thriller, with a modicum of action that still holds up today. Recommended.


Walk of Shame
Walk of Shame
DVD ~ Elizabeth Banks
Price: $10.99
44 used & new from $4.75

2.0 out of 5 stars (BLU RAY REVIEW) Shameful, September 11, 2014
This review is from: Walk of Shame (DVD)
Oh boy, where to start. In what professes to be a comedy, director and writer Steven Brill, brings the talent he earlier displayed in "Drillbit Taylor" to the screen. In this ridiculous movie, Elizabeth Banks plays Meghan Miles, the news anchor at an L. A. television station. Her boyfriend (Oliver Hudson) just walked out on her, but she's a finalist for a national network gig.

After discovering she lost the job, she goes out with her two best lady friends (Gillian Jacobs and Sarah Wright Olsen). At the age-appropriate club, the 3 get snockered. Meghan, locked out of the club on a balcony, is rescued by one of the club's bartenders (James Marsden). Unable to drive, Gordon (Marsden) drives Meghan home, planning to take a cab back to his house (he has no car). But Meghan restarts the drinking binge and Gordon quickly catches up. And "spoiler alert", they spend the night together.

Meghan gets a phone call from her producer telling her that she will now get the job, but the decision makers are coming to her telecast to watch her work in person. No big deal right? Wrong. Although Meghan is hung over, she heads for her car - without her phone of course - only to find her car has been towed, along with her purse in it. She tries to get back inside but doesn't remember which apartment Gordon lives in and yep, no names on the buzzers. So she starts out walking, hails a cab, but has no money. After the cabbie (Ken Davitian) boots her out of the cab, the rest of the movie is her walking to the distant impound lot. This one of those movies where a supposedly smart woman, does some really stupid things. She can't even convince the cops (Ethan Suplee and Bill Burr) that she's not a hooker which is what everyone who sees her thinks she is.

The film has two things going for it. The opening YouTube video news blunders, some of which are real, and looking at Banks in a yellow Marc Jacobs mini-skirt. Both are short term fixes however. This is not a very funny movie, relying on stereotyped characters and situations rather than an intelligent script. The title says it all.

The Blu ray transfer is first rate, however. Using a 1080p resolution and a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, the film looks very good with Meghan's bright yellow dress, the color centerpiece. The detail is excellent as are skin-tones. Close ups are impressive. A bit is lost in some of the low light scenes but overall the film looks great. The audio comes in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and is excellent. Dialog is clear and properly up front. Bass is very good, coming primarily in the early club scenes. Surrounds are most prominent at the club and with the musical soundtrack. A brief exchange of gunfire is also heard in the surrounds. There are no extras. Subtitles are available in English SDH and Spanish.


Scarface (Universal Cinema Classics)
Scarface (Universal Cinema Classics)
DVD ~ Paul Muni
Price: $9.40
59 used & new from $4.12

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 4 1/2 stars for one of the great gangster films, September 8, 2014
This is a bit unusual but I actually went back and watched this original Howard Hawks directed film after watching the 1983 Brian DePalma remake with Al Pacino. For one thing the Blu ray limited edition version I have includes a DVD of this brave crime thriller. A thinly veiled Al Capone, known as Tony Camonte is aggressively portrayed by Paul Muni. He's a vicious thug with his sights set on the bootlegging empire of his boss Johnny Lovo (Osgood Perkins). Lovo controls the mob business on one side of Chicago and Tom Gaffney (Boris Karloff, fresh from his success in "Frankenstein") controls the other. Tony thinks he should control both and soon he will. Not only that, he manages to inherit Lovo's mistress, Poppy (Karen Morley).

Tony likes to flaunt Poppy but his real female interest is his 18 year old sister, Cesca (Ann Dvorak). While Tony insists he is only protecting his sister from scum like him, it comes across as a little unnatural. This relationship is played out equally well in the later remake with Al Pacino and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as the siblings. George Raft who would become one of Hollywood's best gangster characters plays Tony's best friend and ill-fated lover of Cesca.

"Scarface" was produced by Howard Hughes with a brilliant script by the famed Ben Hecht based on Armitage Trail's novel. Hughes had to make numerous compromises in order to get the movie past the various censor boards and he wasn't happy about it. In fact he eventually pulled the film shortly after its release and it didn't see daylight again until 1979. The film plays well today. It deals with immigration (Italians), gun control, advanced automatic weapons (Tommy-guns), outgunned police, illegal substances (booze) and is loaded with violence. Sounds familiar. This film is a crime classic that stands the test of time. It is exciting, well-acted and very entertaining. Better than DePalma's '83 remake? You bet.


Hang 'Em High [Blu-ray]
Hang 'Em High [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Clint Eastwood
Price: $10.98
57 used & new from $4.75

4.0 out of 5 stars (BLU RAY REVIEW) Clint Eastwood's first film as a "movie star.", September 6, 2014
This review is from: Hang 'Em High [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
After Clint Eastwood concluded his "Man With No Name" trilogy in Italy, he returned to Hollywood a movie star. His first U. S. film was another Western, but one with more dialog and an underlying theme (capital punishment).

Eastwood plays a former lawman named Jed Cooper who is now trying to set himself up in Oklahoma as a rancher. Having bought a herd of cattle he is moving them by to his ranch when he is confronted by 9 men on the prairie. Led by Captain Wilson (Ed Begley), Cooper is accused of murdering the man who allegedly sold him the cattle. Even with a bill of sale, he's strung up and left for dead. Minutes later Cooper is rescued from the noose by Marshal Bliss (Ben Johnson), who is in the process of transferring a half dozen prisoners back to the territorial capital. Bliss tosses Cooper in with the others.

Cooper is eventually cleared of wrong doing by the territories' hanging Judge Fenton (Pat Hingle). Fenton offers Cooper a job as marshal with the condition that he actually bring back the bad guys to be hanged rather than shooting them himself. He agrees and sets out to find the 9 men who took the law into their own hands.

Eastwood's Cooper isn't the same character as the one he played so well in Leone's spaghetti westerns. He's a bit more polished and not quite as vengeful. Yet he does have a mean streak and is just as resilient. Inger Stevens, who would die just a couple years later at age 35, gives a wooden performance as Rachel Warren, a love interest of Cooper's. She checks out all the men brought to prison hoping to find the 2 men who killed her husband and raped her...I mean had their way with her. She is generally repelled by men as a result and is slow to accept Cooper's modest advances. That all changes after Cooper is gunned down by Wilson and 2 of his henchmen and she nurses him back to health.

There is some interesting byplay between Cooper and Judge Fenton when Cooper questions the rationale for bringing men back for trial, only to be hung. Fenton explains that hanging them proves to the citizenry that justice is just as swift and conclusive as taking the law into their own hands. In fact, the executions are a big event for the folks in the territory. People gather from miles around to enjoy the carnival-like atmosphere of a public hanging.

Ardent movie watchers will also spot Bruce Dern as one of the gang that hangs Cooper, along with long-time western actor Bob Steele and a brief cameo by Dennis Hopper. Eastwood gives an excellent performance. Director Ted Post keeps the camera close on Eastwood's face in numerous scenes, provided an opportunity for some nuanced reactions. While "Hang `em High" isn't Eastwood's best movie or even best performance, it is a nice stepping stone for his long career and certainly worth a look.

The Blu ray transfer is a big upgrade from the DVD. It maintains the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and comes in 1080p resolution. Although this isn't a frame-by-frame restoration it still looks very good. Colors and skin tones appear authentic. Black levels are good as is the detail. The only abnormality I noticed come with a couple scene changes where the color intensity is inconsistent. No biggie. The audio redirects the original mono sound into 5.1 courtesy of DTS-HD Master Audio. There are limits of course but the lossless track provides good reproduction of the film's musical score. Surrounds come into play mostly with the large crowd scenes and during the gun battles. If you are a purist, a mono Dolby Digital 2.0 option is available. Subtitles are available in English SDH and Spanish. The disc is devoid of extras.


Last Night
Last Night
DVD ~ Jessica Booker
Price: $11.14
34 used & new from $4.43

4.0 out of 5 stars How do you spend your last night on Earth?, September 2, 2014
This review is from: Last Night (DVD)
There is more than one film called "Last Night" but this one comes from Canada and features Sandra Oh as Sandra, a woman trying to get back to her husband on what is to be the apocalyptic end of the world. Don McKellar is Patrick who has his own plans to sit out the end. McKellar also wrote and directed the film. The setting is Toronto and we don't know much about why life on Earth is coming to an end. The only clue is that it is constantly daylight. We see the last 5 hours of these two who meet unexpectedly as well as a handful of other characters with a similar fate.

While people have a different take on how they want to go out, one thing is a bit peculiar in that everyone seems to have resolved themselves to the circumstances. One of the best characters is one of Patrick's friends, Craig (Callum Keith Rennie), who over the past couple month came up with his own bucket list. He proudly shows it to Patrick having written and categorized the list on the walls of his bathroom. For the most part his list has to do with sexual encounters. With only 2 months to live he hasn't had a hard time coming up with willing participants who may have similar lists. This includes a liaison with his high school French teacher (Genevieve Bujold).

There is a underlying dark humor that permeates the film, but differentiates itself in that there are no earthquakes, tidal waves, alien monsters, hurricanes, volcano eruptions and such to deal with. Instead we see human nature. And it can change, even in those last moments. The film has a poignant and bittersweet conclusion. Excellent movie.


Magic Christian Music
Magic Christian Music
30 used & new from $4.88

3.0 out of 5 stars For those who can't get enough of the Beatles, September 2, 2014
This review is from: Magic Christian Music (Vinyl)
Badfinger was a Beatle's sounding band that also recorded on the Apple label, so one assumes had the blessing of the big boys. This album includes 3 tracks from the movie "The Magic Christian", a real stinker as I recall. This included the first track "Come and Get It" which was a Beatle's song. This is a listenable album, especially if you couldn't get enough Beatles and this came out in 1970, so the mop toppers were history by then. Interestingly, the 4 man band only pictures 3 on the back cover.


Die Another Day [Blu-ray]
Die Another Day [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Pierce Brosnan
Offered by Frodo's Fantasy
Price: $12.14
109 used & new from $2.70

3.0 out of 5 stars (BLU RAY REVIEW) 3 1/2 stars for Bronson's final film as 007., August 28, 2014
I've always felt that Pierce Brosnan was an excellent James Bond, especially after he jump started the series with "Goldeneye," his first 007. Unfortunately the producers let him down with his last two films. This very average Bond film managed to get him unceremoniously fired. Not that he did anything wrong. He's still very good.

"Die Another Day" opens with Bond and 2 associates surfing on a huge wave onto the coast of North Korea. Bond assumes the guise of an arms dealer looking to trade a cache of "blood" diamonds for some neat new weapons. One of these is a ridiculously contrived vehicle that floats on air. All the better to avoid the thousands of land mines between North and South Korea. Bond doesn't quite make it and is captured. I don't recall another Bond film where he doesn't get away in the opening sequence.

After 14 months of torture and captivity he is traded for a character named Zao (Rick Yune), the right hand man of Col. Moon (Will Yun Lee) who is believed to have been killed trying to kill Bond in that opening sequence. "M" (Judi Dench) is pissed off that she and the Americans had to give up Zao for Bond. She pulls him from duty - yeah, that will work - for some unknown reason. So Bond being Bond, improvises his escape from the Brits. Didn't he have to do this before just a few movies ago?

Bond is still pissed at North Korea and wants to find the arms dealer that has all those diamonds. That leads him to Iceland. It appears that an ex-pat named Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens) is the evil doer in charge. He's even developed a giant laser that is orbiting in space. Think back to "Goldfinger" but this one is much bigger and has mass destructive capabilities. Graves's assistant is Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike, soon to be seen in "Gone Girl") but she's actually an agent working for "M," or is she?

This film is loaded with explosions, gun fire, exotic cars racing across ice covered lakes. There is an invisible car. Say what? Plenty of CGI stuff, not all good. Dialog is often comprised of more double entendres than all previous Bond films combined. I thought the sets looked faux and the gadgets, aplenty though they may be, were silly. On the positive side, there is a nice homage to "Dr. No" and Ursula Andress featuring Halle Berry as American NSA agent Jinx Johnson who first meets 007 walking out of the ocean in an orange bikini. Nice. Overall, this is a very average Bond film and certainly not the worst.

Also nice is the excellent upgrade that the Blu ray provides over the old DVD. It comes with a 1080p video resolution and a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, the same as the original film. The transfer looks very good. Excellent color. The stark white Iceland scenes really pop. Detail is excellent, black levels very good. Only the sharpest eyes will see some edge enhancement on larger screens. The audio comes from a very active DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Surrounds and LFE channel are in constant action. I did find certain scenes involving Miranda Frost needing a volume bump. There are English and Spanish subtitles available and a French Dolby Surround 5.1 option. As near as I can tell the extras are the same as what's on the DVD.


Ikea Kallax Bookcase Shelving Unit Display Black Brown Modern Shelf
Ikea Kallax Bookcase Shelving Unit Display Black Brown Modern Shelf
Offered by brightmaison
Price: $69.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Not perfect but easy to assemble and sturdy enough for vinyl records., August 27, 2014
I'm still in the vinyl record collecting business and my collection has outgrown my current shelving system, so I was looking for something simple that would allow me to expand. I actually found this on Amazon but ordered it directly from Ikea at a substantially lower price ($35 + $15 shipping). It took a week to get here and appeared to be in good condition, although a closer look found a couple minor imperfections in the top piece. Frankly I've found this to be pretty much the rule with these assembled pieces. Rather than squawk about it, I just dealt with it myself.

I'm not much of a handyman but I have put together several pieces of furniture similar to this bookcase and this one is about as easy as it comes. The manufacturer could have made it a lot easier however. It took me about a half hour once I got it out of the box to put it together. Most of that time was trying to identify the individual pieces and where they go. They look very similar and are not labeled. You have to be very careful to get the one with the holes properly aligned with the pictures in the manual. No directions are given, just pictures and arrows. My only point of confusion came early on when I was inserting the dowels into the holes. The picture shows only two were needed but there were 4 holes in the picture. So I had to go to each step and count the dowels to make sure I hade enough. Sure enough only 2 were called for. So what are the other two holes for? I actually think additional dowels should have been provided for additional stability. Still, probably not an issue.

Personally for my use, I would have liked a back piece also. Not only to add support but to give it a more furniture like appearance. There are additional brackets, screws and braces provided in case you want to hang this unit on a wall. There are no anchors provided however, so you would have to provide those. I'm keeping mine on the floor, so it didn't apply to me.

In summary this is an easy piece to assemble even the issues noted above. It looks fine and is more black than brown but is no substitute for fine furniture. It seems pretty sturdy and seems to be holding the records fine so far. Not a bad deal for $50.


Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For [HD]
Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For [HD]
DVD
Price: $14.99

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Yes, Eva Green is the dame to die for, August 23, 2014
Theatrical review.
In 2005, I saw the first "Sin City" in theaters and gushed in a review that "it was a fresh, unique and ground breaking (film) on many fronts." To be fair, that comment isn't necessarily true in this sequel. Also to be fair, those looking for complicated plots, articulate banter and theatrical heft will be left wanting.

"Dame" doesn't hide what it wants to be. That is, a stylistic onslaught of visual mayhem, violence, sex and nudity...with just a touch of humor. While this look of the graphic novel is spot on with the mostly black and white motif, it didn't catch on after the success of the original. "The Spirit" (2008) tried to capture the look and style but failed at the box office. Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller return with many of the same characters and a few new ones.

Mickey Rourke returns as Marv and becomes the link to the different story lines. He's the unofficial protector of Nancy (Jessica Alba), evidently the only stripper at the club where everyone hangs out. And apparently as sexy as Nancy is, she never strips either. Her original guardian, Hartigan (Bruce Willis) is but a ghost of his former self. But she's out for revenge, as is just about everybody, against Senator Roark (terrifically nasty Powers Boothe). Even Roark's illegitimate son, Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who beats his old man at cards and plays a price. I like this new character and would like to have seem more.

Josh Brolin is new but his character, Dwight, is not. He replaces Clive Owen in the role. The centerpiece in the story and the "dame to die for" is Ava (Eva Green) who had Dwight eating out of her hand years earlier. It made him crazy so he does his best to clean up his act and stay away. But she doesn't. In a terrific scene she meets him at the strip club. She walks in and everything around her is black and white except for her vibrant blue trench coat. That's just about the last thing she wears in the movie. It's no wonder she has men wanting to die for her. The elderly couple in the theater I was in couldn't take a screen full of bosoms and promptly walked out as younger teens sneaked in.

The film ups the violence quotient to boot. Blood, usually white or red, is everywhere as heads are severed, eyes gouged out and fingers broken. The film is a visual feast with beautifully created scenes and a look that improves on the original. As I said at the beginning it may not have the gravitas and freshness of the original but damn, Eva Green is to die for.


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