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M. Oleson RSS Feed (Fort Worth, TX USA)

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These Amazing Shadows: The Movies That Make America
These Amazing Shadows: The Movies That Make America
DVD ~ n/a
Price: $14.01
27 used & new from $3.53

5.0 out of 5 stars 4 1/2 stars for a wonderful documentary about saving movies, June 2, 2015
This wonderful documentary is a must for film lovers. Created in the late 1980's by Congressional fiat, The National Film Registry was formed to preserve selected films. In 1986, media mogul Ted Turner purchased the entire catalog of MGM films. He decided to colorize the films, thinking this "update" would create a new audience of younger viewers. He was met with nearly uniform resistance from stalwarts of the film community, including well-known actors who appealed to Congress to protect such defacement of an American art form.

Managed under the auspices of the Library of Congress, the Registry selects 25 films (or equivalent) each year to be registered. This documentary by Paul Mariano and Kurt Norton, spends a little time on the creation, but more on individual films. Films are remembered by current filmmakers and actors and how they were influenced by them.

Perhaps most surprising to me is that certain home movies are included that have historical significance such as the U. S. internment of Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor. In addition, that little animated bumper everyone who has ever been to a movie has remembers, "Let's all go to the lobby" is also registered. The most interesting discovery is how certain films were needlessly censored, destroying the filmmaker story or intent. An example is shown of the 1933 film, "Baby Face" starring Barbara Stanwyck as a young women intent on success, even if that meant using her "certain skills" to get men to see it her way. Side by side clips of the film are shown which provide cuts required by censors which change the complexion of the film.

Another interesting section of the documentary deals with the storage vaults in Virginia where tens of thousands of film rolls are stored. Technicians carefully go through films trying to preserve what they can. We see most of the Registry board in various Q & A segments detailing the process of choosing a film each year. It would have been fun to sit in on some of the debates. All in, this is an entertaining and informative documentary and a one movie lovers will want to see.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Blu-ray + Digital HD)
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Blu-ray + Digital HD)
DVD ~ Steve Carell
Price: $22.48
43 used & new from $10.73

2.0 out of 5 stars Unlikely events, not enough laughs for a film about family committment, June 2, 2015
Normally I wouldn't watch this film. The ill-suggested title pretty much says it all. My teenage son wanted to see it however, which itself is a head scratcher, but about 15 minutes into the film I figured out why. A very cute actress (Bella Thorne, "The Duff") plays the high school sweetheart of Anthony Cooper (Dylan Minnette, "Let Me In") of the family having the bad day.

Every member of the Cooper family, Ben (Steve Carell), Kelly (Jennifer Garner), Alexander (Ed Oxenbould), Anthony, Emily (Kerris Dorsey) and baby Trevor (Vargas twins) have their problems. The parents with their job, or in Ben's case, job interview after being "downsized." The kids have their own problems, revolving around school projects or romance. And even Trevor has problems after losing his bumblebee pacifier, thanks to Alexander's carelessness. And then there is Alexander's birthday.

There are a few laughs along the way, mostly from Emily and her attempt to play Peter Pan in the school play. But there are just too many improbable, unlikely and maybe even impossible events that screws up the one day. Or does it? The one redeeming factor in the film is that it does show the family, for all of its screw-ups and divisions, remain committed to each other. So while I didn't like the movie, it does send a good message that would be appropriate for many would be viewers.

While the film is problematic, the transfer to Blu ray is terrific. Sticking with the original 2.39:1 aspect ratio, the movie is delivered with a 1080p video resolution. Colors are strong and vibrant. Skin tones are accurate and black levels are inky. Detail is very good. In short this is a beautiful, bright, nearly flawless looking film. The disc uses a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which is also very good. Nothing particularly noteworthy, but excellent depth, easy to understand dialog and a decent soundtrack. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. Extras include a 5 minute piece with the author of the children's book that inspired the film, some bloopers, a music video ("Hurricane"), a video diary, and a 7 minute short about shooting the Outback-based birthday party.

San Andreas
San Andreas
Price: $14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars 3 1/2 stars. Entertaining and full of fun action sequence, June 2, 2015
This review is from: San Andreas (Amazon Instant Video)
Theatrical review. There may be spoilers. The big, bold and brainy (not) disaster film is still with us and in terms of technical, CGI and green screen quality, "San Andreas" raises the bar, if ever so slightly. Dwayne "Rock" Johnson plays Ray, a Los Angeles firefighter who specializes in high risk helicopter rescues - we see a doozy right off the bat. He's on the verge of divorce from his wife Emma (Carla Gugino, "Sin City") and together they have a college age daughter, Blake played by Alexandra Daddario. Ms. Daddario is probably best known by younger viewers as Annabeth from the "Percy Jackson" films. Older viewers will probably recognize her from her...uh grown up role as Lisa in last year's "True Detective" on HBO. And in case you're wondering (I was), she's less than 14 years younger than the "Rock" in real life. Acting!

In any case, the film deals with the effects, before, during and after a giant (9.6 on Richter scale) earthquake devastates parts of Nevada and coastal California. The film, directed by Brad Peyton ("Journey 2: The Mysterious Island") has some terrific, if implausible rescue scenes involving Ray and Emma. Emma, having lunch with her boyfriend's (Ioan Gruffudd) sister (Kylie Minogue) when the earthquake hits L. A. She must scramble to the top deck of the high rise, where Ray has maneuvered his helicopter to save her.

Daniel (Gruffudd) has driven Blake to San Francisco where she attends school. When the quake works its way up the coast, it hits the Bay area the hardest. In the meantime, Ray with the now rescued Emma head north by helicopter and later by small plane to rescue Blake. Blake meets cute with a young Brit named Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) who is interviewing for a job at Daniel's architectural firm. He has dragged along his 13 year old brother, Ollie (Art Parkinson). This trio must survive the quake and its aftermath in San Francisco until Ray and Emma rescue them.

So how does that happen, which of course we know it will? It turns out Blake has some inherent survival instincts and tricks learned from her dad. And then there was a brief phone call with Ray when he advises her to move to higher ground. That's about it. Once Ray and Emma get to the now devastated city, they jump in a power boat, defy an oncoming Tsunami and maneuver their way through the flooded and debris riddled city to find Blake. There is a secondary plot involving a seismologist (Paul Giamatti) who is doing a TV info piece with producer/interviewer (Archie Panjabi).

This isn't one of those films where things make sense, in any number of ways. But who cares. It is entertaining, full of fun action sequences and is technically well done. Recommended.

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck (DVD)
Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck (DVD)
DVD ~ Kurt Cobain
Price: $22.48

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 3 1/2 stars for a detailed insight as to why the musical genius crashed and burned, May 29, 2015
Documentarian, director and writer Brett Morgan ("Chicago 10") takes a detailed look into Cobain's rise and fall and ultimate death at the tender age of 27. With some interesting interviews with Cobain's parents, step-mother, sister, wife and Nirvana's bassist interspersed with non-stop computer graphics, we can see that Cobain predicted his demise at an early age. He even dodged a bullet tying himself to train tracks as a teenager.

Unfortunately, the trouble teen managed to graduate to heroin while starting his band. To some degree this may have heightened his creative juices, but in the end helped to destroy him. Perhaps the most interested moments are with the home videos, especially those shot after Kurt married Courtney Love who was already a heroin addict. No punches are pulled as there are numerous inclusions of Courtney's proud display of her breasts not to mention their decision to have a baby, all while strung out. Love even admits to taking drugs while pregnant. I really started squirming with the scenes of a skinny Cobain handling the baby when he could barely sit up straight.

Surprisingly absent from the documentary is an interview with band drummer, Dave Grohl. Morgan digs deep finding pages of Cobain's, sometimes incoherent, writings which he sets to a backdrop of Nirvana songs, cartoons and other graphic art. However, I don't think I ever heard the interviewer ask Love (now sober?) why they would want to have a baby while strung out on heroin. The film is often uncomfortable to watch, but provides insight as to why the musical genius crashed and burned.

Pride [Blu-ray]
Pride [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Bill Nighy
Price: $22.45
24 used & new from $17.94

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars (BLU RAY REVIEW) 4 1/2 stars. Lesbians, Gays and Miners...Oh My..., May 28, 2015
This review is from: Pride [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Potential spoilers. During Margaret Thatcher's political reign over the U.K. in the 1980's, one of labors' big events was the strike of the mineworkers. In London, another group was trying to find equality. Surprisingly, a small movement by a section of the gay and lesbian community, led to a broad national coalition of unity and solidarity.

Mark (Ben Schnetzer) is the defacto leader and decides their little group should begin soliciting donations to help the miners weather the lengthy strike. Even with some defections, Mark and his group known as "Lesbians and Gays Supporting the Miners" (L.G.S.M.) collect enough money to make a donation. Rather than send it to the national organization, Mark decides they should pick just one local group from one small town. A town in Wales is picked at random and by accident get a meeting with the union leader Dai Donovan (Paddy Considine). While Dai is a bit surprised by the notion that his supporters are gay, he is fine with it and invites the group to come to his village and speak to the striking miners. With trepidation they agree and make the trip.

The idea of miners and gays getting together for a common agenda, sounds very strange and even dangerous. But after a few meetings and with the help of some of the town's leaders, Sian (Jessica Gunning), Hefina (Imelda Staunton), Cliff (Bill Nighy) and others, most of the town accepts the groups' money and friendship. Of course, there's always a few bad apples that want to ruin the party, but the film avoids violent confrontations for the most part. The film, directed by Matthew Warchus, deftly focuses more on the fairness for all issue and solidarity for those oppressed rather than "gay pride." Frankly that fact, disturbs some of the gay community once the effort gets national attention.

While the film has a serious tone, Warchus delivers it with a light touch most of the time. There are some funny scenes involving the lesbians and an older white-haired woman. And still others when a group of matrons goes with the group to a series of gay bars and clubs. Dominick West ("300") has a key role as the restrained but usually flamboyant Jonathan who teaches some of the miners how to dance. In real life Jonathan was also the first or second person in the world identified with the HIV virus. Joe (George MacKay) is another character who plays a big role in the film. He's 20 and gay, but hasn't told his parents who think he is straight and going to college. In order to move the story along, the filmmakers provide small vignettes about these and other characters in the film.

The film is hopeful, entertaining and poignant. Highly recommended.

The Blu ray comes with a 1080p video resolution and a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The film generally looks very good. Occasionally black levels waiver but the beautiful Welsh countryside appears lush with greens and partly cloudy grey skies. Detail is good as are flesh tones. Interior and exterior shots are well detailed. The audio comes with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which is excellent. Music comes into play in numerous shots and it is uniformly perfect. For an interesting example of good mixing, check out the scene where the elderly woman slowly walks across the empty miners' hall to answer a ringing telephone. There a plenty of ambient sounds to occupy the surrounds although the LFE channel was mostly silent. Subtitles are available in English and English SDH. Extras include some deleted and extended scenes, a piece about the true story and some Sony trailers.

Twin Peaks: Pilot Episode
Twin Peaks: Pilot Episode
9 used & new from $20.61

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 4 1/2 stars. Pilot episode that became the classic series, May 26, 2015
This review is from: Twin Peaks: Pilot Episode (DVD)
This DVD should not be confused with the movie, "Fire Walk With Me," which is a prequel to the TV series. "Fire" should only be watched after the TV series, unless you want all of the spoilers and secrets of the show. I will also point out that the pilot is NOT included in the packaged TV series (season 1 or 2).

The "Twin Peaks" pilot which evidently was shown as a 2 hour TV movie, not knowing if it would be a series, has a couple endings as I understand it. It is also hard to get as a stand alone DVD (out of print) unless you get a European PAL version or the Gold Box version or want to pay a premium on the secondary market. The copy I have is dubbed from a laserdisc in the mid 90's and is of serviceable quality but certainly not up to current standards.

The "film" itself is significantly different from "Fire Walk With Me" in tone and subject matter. This opening feature is fairly light hearted in many respects except for some well acted scenes as parents and friends learn of Laura's murder. The story does begin to delve into the weird in the latter third of the movie. Certainly the stage is set for one of my favorite TV shows of all time which I'm now re-watching.

This "pilot" is a must for first time viewers of the show. It sets the table for one of the best and most unique series in TV history. Lara Flynn Boyle is particularly good in this episode as Laura's best friend Donna Hayward.

Kill The Messenger
Kill The Messenger
Price: $4.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The CIA and the "war on drugs", May 23, 2015
Jeremy Renner turns in one of his best performances as Gary Webb, an award winning reporter for a San Jose, California newspaper. While investigating a story involving the Government's "war on drugs" policy of confiscating personal property that "may" have been obtained with "drug money" (sorry for all those "'s) he's tipped off by one of the drug dealer's girlfriend (Paz Vega) that there is a bigger story. She shows him secret grand jury testimony that suggests that the drug dealer is actually importing drugs for the CIA. The drugs are being release in Los Angeles and other big cities in the form of crack cocaine.

This involvement falls on the heels of the Iran-Contra scandal during the Reagan administration between 1985-1987. In 1996, Webb, as a result of the original tip discovered that the CIA was continuing to fund the Nicaraguan rebels with money from drug sales in the U. S. The movie covers his background work and the resulting response from the government, the CIA in particular. While Webb's life began to unravel as his past was investigated, his family threatened, his newspaper abandoning him and other papers questioning his sources, we see Webb begin to fall apart.

The film spends a lot of time on his relationship with his family, perhaps a bit too much. Still, this was an important element of his life. While the film doesn't quite meet the standards set by "All the President's Men" in terms of suspense and mystery, it is a well done story and certainly raises all of the issues we still seem to be facing today. Based on some of the facts I reviewed later, the film draws some different conclusions from reality. Renner carries the movie from beginning to end and is more than enough to recommend it.

Price: $14.99

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 3 1/2 stars for a fun look at the future with a serious message, May 23, 2015
In consecutive week-ends, two films have been released dealing with a future dystopian world. Last week, "Mad Max: Fury Road" is resurrected by George Miller and company. And this week Disney and Brad Bird give us a PG version of a possible future. Both films suggest that if we Earth-folk don't change our ways we will be on the verge of distinction. The similarities pretty much end there however.

"Tomorrowland" features Britt Robertson ("The Longest Ride") as Casey Newton, a high school genius and the daughter of a NASA engineer (Tim McGraw). He's about to be furloughed as the local launching pad is about to be shut down. Casey does what she can to prevent the closure including minor acts of sabotage, which in this film is worth a slap on the hand. Unbeknownst to her, Casey is slipped a small round pin by a young girl named Athena (excellent Raffey Cassidy). When Casey touches the pin, she is instantly transported to world well into the future, but planted physically in the same location. Confused? You'll catch on quickly. Did I mention the film is PG?

There is also a flashback sequence involving a young boy, about Athena's age named Frank (Thomas Robinson). Frank gets his pin while attending the World's Fair in New York in 1964 and makes the trip to the future before being exiled back to the present when he's about 20. He grows up mean and cantankerous and living alone in a remote broken down house. At least he looks like George Clooney.

Athena rescues Casey from the clutches of a pair of sci-fi collectors played by Kathryn Hahn and Keegan-Michael Key and takes her to Frank's house. It appears they both have been chosen as possible saviors of the planet. The film certainly has its heart in the right place but then goes about hitting you in the head with its version of the future. The scene where the future-world's Governor Nix (Hugh Laurie) might have been written by Al Gore. Don't get me wrong, I believe most of what he and the writers are saying, but I'm afraid many future deniers won't.

While the film delivers its message heavy handedly at times, the message is valid. And then there is no denying the interesting look of the film. It reminds me of those scenes from "Blade Runner" with the tall buildings, flying vehicles, large colorful billboards. Only replace the dank, smog infested congestion with blue skies, gleaming buildings and just slightly less congestion. The film has its share of action sequences as well. Nothing too nefarious of course. Did I mention this movie is PG rated? Overall, a long (kiddies won't like that), fun ride with a serious message. Recommended.

Laggies [Blu-ray]
Laggies [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Mark Webber
Price: $16.99
30 used & new from $5.76

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars (BLU RAY REVIEW) Passible romantic comedy, May 21, 2015
This review is from: Laggies [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Lynn Shelton had a terrific movie out in 2011 called "Your Sister's Sister." Since then she's been mostly directing TV shows including "New Girl" and most recently "Fresh Off the Boat." She managed to squeeze this film in last year. Keira Knightley stars as Megan (with an authentic American accent), a 28 year old unemployed woman with a masters degree. She hasn't had much work other than standing out in front of her dad's (Jeff Garlin) CPA office waving one of those giant arrows soliciting business. She lives with her high school sweetheart, Anthony (Mark Webber), who is a very nice, average looking, boring guy.

Megan's circle of friends seem to be making a departure from some of the antics they used to do in high school and college. You know, they're getting married and well...growing up. Megan seems to be "lagging." At her best friend Allison's (Ellie Kemper) wedding, Anthony is prepared to pop the question, one that Megan isn't ready for, so she bolts. Heading into a liquor store to find some relief, she's coaxed by a quartet of high school kids to buy them some booze, which she does. She ends up hanging out with them for a while, gives them her phone number and goes back to the wedding.

One of the kids is Annika (Chloe Grace Moretz) who days later calls Megan out of desperation to come to her school and meet with the principal about her grades. Annika's mom (Gretchen Mol) bailed on the family years earlier and dad (Sam Rockwell) is a workaholic and is rarely around. Megan agrees and afterwards asks if she can spend the night. She needs a few days away from Anthony to sort things out. As it turns out dad - Craig - pops in after work and comments that his daughter's high school friend seems a bit "rough." You can pretty much guess where this is going and you would be right.

There just isn't enough there there, unfortunately. The screenplay (Andrea Seigel) just lacks the humor to carry it to the end. Rockwell and Knightley are actually very good. Alas they don't spend much time together on screen. The story focuses on Megan and Annika and spends much too much time on Megan and Anthony. Their relationship and scenes are just boring. The movie isn't all bad. Knightly is surprisingly convincing as the slacker she admits to being. And although it is never mentioned in the film, her ability to deal with Annika and her interesting friend Misty (Kaitlyn Dever) and their problems, including boys, provides some clue that her psychology degree may lead to a job. As it is the film is a passible romantic comedy.

The digitally shot movie transfers well to Blu ray. It has a 1080p video resolution and a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The detail is mostly excellent. In particular, daylight scenes are sharp, with accurate color and hue. Nighttime and dark sequences are sometimes problematic. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is nothing spectacular, which shouldn't be a surprise in a dialog-centric film like this. Surrounds occasionally show up at the wedding scenes and some ambient sounds shot outside. Extras include an audio commentary by Shelton, a 9 minute piece call "Lagging On with Lynn Shelton," and a 6 minute short on shooting in Seattle where the film was shot. There are also some deleted scenes. Subtitles are available in Spanish and English SDH.

Blackhat (Blu-ray + DVD + DIGITAL HD with UltraViolet)
Blackhat (Blu-ray + DVD + DIGITAL HD with UltraViolet)
DVD ~ Michael Mann
Price: $22.48
37 used & new from $15.94

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars (BLU RAY REVIEW) 2 1/2 stars for a so-so action flick saddled with wooden performances, May 17, 2015
As a long time Michael Mann fan (I think "The Last of the Mohicans" is one of the best movies...ever), I'm always up for one of his movies. Unfortunately this isn't one that will last long in the memory bank. Compounded by audio problems early on (more on that later), I was never able to settle in with the story or the characters and the movie flounders until the final act.

The movie begins with an interesting, if not original, CGI effect that takes the "camera-bug" through the inner workings of a computer signal. This time it is at a nuclear reactor in China. At nearly the same time, a similar event is happening on Wall Street. One catastrophe causes a nuclear meltdown, the other a meltdown of soy prices. In China, a cyber-spy specialist, Maj. Chen Dawai (Leehom Wang) is charged with finding out what happened. During his investigation, he discovers that the bug was placed in a similar way as the Wall Street collapse. He gets agreement to work with the American FBI to jointly find the criminal. He has discovered that the way to hack the networks was developed by him while at MIT with the help of his roommate, Nick Hathaway.

Hathaway is in the slammer for 13 years due to his cyber-criminal activities, but Chen needs him free to help. An agreement is reached and now Nick, Chen and his cutesy sister, Lien (Wei Tang) along with their FBI babysitter, Agent Carol Barrett (Viola Davis) travel the world hunting down the bad guy(s). Given the wooden performances by the cast, the film drags mercilessly through the middle portion of the film. Perhaps Hemsworth was worried too much about perfecting his American accent or that Wei was having a hard time with English, it just isn't believable. Even when Lien and Nick are left alone, they look at each other and just seem to say, "Hey, we're alone, might as well make out."

Mann and his crew almost rescue the film in the third act, thanks to some terrific action sequences and a stirring score by Atticus Ross, Leopold Ross and Harry Gregson-Williams. Even so, some of the events are telegraphed with tradition Hollywood set ups.

The Blu ray transfer is a mixed bag. The video comes with a 1080p resolution and a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. While it looks just fine, there is nothing to really distinguish the transfer either. Acceptably good. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is a near disaster, specifically with the dialog in the first half of the film. The film just appears to be poorly mixed. To some degree this may have been partially due to some over-dubbing post production. This is especially noticeable with Lien's voice. Lip synching errors are also noticeable when the Chinese speak in their native language. There are dialog dropouts with sometimes nothing heard, other times just lower volume. I thought there was something wrong with my disc player, but that wasn't the problem. It was the disc/movie. Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish and French. Extras include the cast and crew discussing cyber threats, a location commentary and a third featurette called "Creating Reality."

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