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

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Nymphomaniac Volume I [Blu-ray]
Nymphomaniac Volume I [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Charlotte Gainsbourg
Price: $27.98
21 used & new from $16.05

3.0 out of 5 stars (BLU RAY REVIEW) von Trier doesn't pull any pubic punches, July 29, 2014
OK, here I am setting myself up for another mind-altering trip with Lars von Trier. I've seen most of his previous films and usually come away scratching my head or pissed off. And then, I keep thinking about the movie for days. This film is no different. Charlotte Gainsbourg, a frequent von Trier contributor, plays Joe. She's found in an alley, unconscious and beaten up, by Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard) who lives in the area. Joe refuses a trip to the hospital or police involvement. Seligman invites her back to his book-laden apartment. After she's cleaned up and provided some tea, she begins to tell her story. That of a self-proclaimed nymphomaniac.

At first Seligman suggest otherwise and in an unusual bit of analogy compares her youthful sexual exuberance with fly fishing. When it started making sense, I knew I was in trouble. The teenage Joe (Stacy Martin) is shown in flashback and is the preeminent character in this volume. Her virginity is offered up when she is 14 and roughly acted upon by a mechanic played by Shia LaBeouf. He will show up later in her life via several flashbacks scenes.

By the time Joe is 16, she and her best friend, 'B' (Sophie Kennedy Clark), are having contests as to who can have sex with the most men/boys. Eventually 'B' finds love, a dirty word in Joe's mind. As a young adult she acquires many notches to her bedpost, eventually averaging 10 different men a day. And as near as I could determine, she was never paid for any of these trysts. She just likes sex and can't get enough.

As he frequently has been wont to do, von Trier doesn't pull any pubic punches showing a full range of sexual organs and sex acts involving all the orifices. In fact one scene shows about a dozen penises of all shapes and sizes in full close up. Yeah, I could have done without that thank you. This film is an obvious set up for volume II which will likely spend more time with the adult Joe in action.

As far as Volume I, I'm almost ashamed to say, I actually laughed a few times. It does have a sense of humor. But I also thought the scenes with Uma Thurman as a jilted wife were a bit over the top. This movie will have a small targeted audiences so be warned. The sex isn't particularly sexy and certainly not romantic. It finds a small niche between the soft core shenanigans of `Skinamax' TV and true hard core film. Somewhat less explicit but with a real story. As for Volume II, well I just can't...uh...wait?

The Blu ray transfer is very good. Using a 1080p video resolution the film has a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The film itself isn't one to create eye-popping video. But the colors appear accurate if drab. I didn't notice any image artifacts. Audio comes in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. This is a talky and the dialog is clear and easily understood. There is no real musical score but plenty of added music, mostly classical (Seligman is a lover of Bach) and some contemporary rock to balance things out. It all sound very good. Subtitles are in Spanish and English SDH. Extras include a short piece called "The Characters," an AXS TV promo, a trailer for this film and a handful of others from Magnolia Home Entertainment.

Delivery Man [Blu-ray]
Delivery Man [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Vince Vaughn
Price: $19.95
92 used & new from $5.32

3.0 out of 5 stars (BLU RAY REVIEW) Watchable if you're in the mood, July 28, 2014
This review is from: Delivery Man [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Vince Vaughn isn't the greatest actor but I like to watch him in roles that suit him. This seemed like one of those films that would play to his strengths. He plays David Wozniak who works in the family run butcher shop in NYC. He's a one dimensional loser who blows his deliveries, pisses off his pregnant girlfriend Emma (Colbie Smulders) and owes loan sharks $80K. It's never quite clear how he ran up such a tab, but OK.

His best friend is Brett (Chris Pratt), a sometime lawyer, sometime stay at home dad. Brett has his hands full with 4 kids and cautions David of the perils of parenthood. Suddenly David is faced with a lawsuit filed by 142 young adults who want to know who their father is. It seems that years ago, in order to collect some cash, David sold his sperm and due to some error by the fertilization clinic, it was improperly distributed and he now has fathered 533 children. An interesting, if unlikely premise, explored a couple years earlier in a Canadian movie called "Starbuck" which was David's pseudo name. The same director, Ken Scott, comes to Hollywood and tells the same story with better known actors.

Actually I found the film pretty interesting early on as David began his search to learn something about his progeny. Obviously we don't get too close to any of them or we would have a TV series instead of a 105 minute movie. Actually that would probably be a better idea. This movie however takes a turn as to whether David and Brett will fight the lawsuit (confidentiality agreement) and in fact, sue the clinic. The movie is sold as a comedy but the laughs are few and far between. Some of the antics, Pratt especially, will induce some smiles and even a chuckle but that's about it. There are also some tender and emotional moments, but one in particular is so obviously geared to producing a tear, it's nonsensical. I really can't recommend the movie, but it is watchable depending on what you're in the mood for.

The Blu ray transfer has a 1080p video resolution and a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. There is certainly nothing wrong with the picture. The detail is good and it has no unusual deficiencies. Having said that, there's nothing that stands out either. A good quality picture. The audio has a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Again, it is unremarkable but I can't complain either. Surrounds come into play infrequently, just with some street noise and bar scenes. The dialog is clear except for one scene where an exchange between David and Emma seemed unusually muffled. There are Spanish, French and English SDH subtitles available. Extras include a deleted scene, a behind the scenes featurette, a 5 minute piece with Vince Vaughn going off script and some bloopers.

Another Thin Man
Another Thin Man
DVD ~ William Powell
Offered by ET Online
Price: $8.99
39 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars 3 1/2 stars. Nick and Nora still at the top of their game, July 27, 2014
This review is from: Another Thin Man (DVD)
This 3rd in the series still has the comedic chemistry between William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles. They are as fun as ever, but this time around the story seems a bit overdone with too many characters. Predictability is also becoming an issue. I don't want to give anyone the wrong idea. I still loved the movie. There's a new Charles in this film also. Sure Asta (the dog) is still a prominent character, but a new baby has arrived. Nick, Jr., just shy of his 1st birthday to be celebrated back in New York.

Nick and Nora have been summoned to meet with Col. MacFay (C. Aubrey Smith) at his Long Island estate. MacFay had been in business with Nora's late father which made both men very rich. Evidently, MacFay had some shady dealings with a crook, Phil Church (Sheldon Leonard), who was sent `up the river' for a few years. Church feels that MacFay owes him restitution and has been threatening him, his family and associates. A couple of ensuing murders brings in the police and the district attorney (Otto Kruger). Clues lead the police and the Charles back and forth between Manhattan and Long Island. An ever expanding cast of characters, and potential suspects, adds to the fun.

Leave it to Nick, to snoop around balancing his detective skills with his shot glass (always full). W. S. Van Dyke is back in the director's saddle and stirs up a nice blend of misinformation to keep us guessing who the real culprit is. Film fans might also recognize Marjorie Main (Mrs. Dolley) from the "Ma and Pa Kettle" movies and Shemp Howard from the "3 Stooges" films.

Licence to Kill [Blu-ray]
Licence to Kill [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Timothy Dalton
Offered by Outlet Promotions
Price: $11.92
63 used & new from $3.50

4.0 out of 5 stars (BLU RAY REVIEW) One of the better and under-appreciated Bonds, July 27, 2014
This John Glen directed Bond (his 5th in a row) was his final one and was also the second and last film starring under-appreciated Timothy Dalton. I believe it was also a creative turning point for the franchise. It began with Dalton's previous Bond film "The Living Daylights." His Bond ditched the comedic talents of Roger Moore, especially in his later work, and focused on the meaner, vengeful side of Bond. In fact, this Bond film is pure vengeance.

James is attending the wedding of his CIA buddy Felix Leiter (David Hedison), when they are distracted by the DEA moving in on a kingpin drug smuggler (Robert Davi). Leiter had previous dealings with Sanchez (Davi) and joins the chase. Sanchez excapes. A short time later he exacts revenge on Leiter by having his new bride killed and offering Leiter as shark bait. Watch for Benicio Del Toro in only his second film appearance as one of Sanchez's henchmen. This scene alone probably got the MPAA to raise the rating on the film to PG-13, a first for a Bond film.

Leiter survives but is missing a leg and part of an arm as a result. Bond promises to track down Sanchez who has retreated to his castle in Isthmus (Panama). Bond is ordered by M to return to another assignment. He refuses and resigns. He must now exact revenge on his own against a powerful criminal with a personal army at his disposal. He does get some help from one of Leiter's confidants; beautiful, leggy Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell).

As you would expect, we are treated to some excellent stunts. Some are under and on the water, some in the air and I especially liked the finale involving semi-trucks loaded with drugs lumbering down a mountain road. This film is darker and more menacing than many of the earlier Bond films. I thought Dalton, while perhaps a bit too dour at times, gives this movie the proper tone. My only complaint is the brief appearance of Wayne Newton as a behind-the-scenes "religious" ally of Sanchez, who tries to get frisky with Pam. Talisa Soto is additional Latina eye candy playing Sanchez's girlfriend. Of course she is no match for Bond's charms. This is the best James Bond movies since "The Spy Who Loved Me" (1977) up to that point.

The Blu ray package is also pretty special. The transfer comes with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio and video resolution of 1080p. It looks great and is one of the better presentations from the Bond collection. This transfer has exceptional detail and clarity, eschewing some of the softness in previous efforts. Black levels are excellent. The night scenes are clear. Colors pop with the green valleys, blue ocean and brown mountains. And did I mention Ms. Lowell's legs? The audio is also very good. It comes with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Most of the action is going to come from the front 3 channels however. Surround and sub use is minimal except during the musical score. Speaking of music. I would be remiss in not mentioning a couple under-appreciated (like Dalton) songs. The title song is sung by Motown great Gladys Knight and the over-the-end-credits song is "If You Asked Me" by R & B diva Patti LaBelle. Both are great. Subtitles are available in Spanish, Korean, 2 Mandarin dialects and English SDH. Here are the extras:

2 Audio Commentaries
4 Featurettes
Deleted Scenes
Publicity Archive
Still Galleries
"Inside Licence to Kill": A documentary
2 Music Videos

Lucy (Blu-ray + DVD + DIGITAL HD with UltraViolet)
Lucy (Blu-ray + DVD + DIGITAL HD with UltraViolet)
DVD ~ Scarlett Johansson
Price: $24.99

15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Scarlett Johansson is terrific in this action science-thriller, July 26, 2014
Theatrical version. There may be spoilers.

ScarJo in an action flick. How could I resist. Oh sure, she's been Black Widow in black leather in "The Avengers" but so far, a secondary character. Here, Scarlett Johansson plays Lucy, a sometime college party girl living in Taiwan. She's duped into taking a briefcase to a man in a downtown skyscraper. She's quickly grabbed by some large Chinese goons and taken to the main man, Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi). She doesn't know what's in the case but is ordered at gunpoint to open it. The bad guys, expecting a possible bomb, hide behind walls and shields. It doesn't explode.

It contains 4 packs of a blue powder substance. I'll call it WD-40 because I can't remember what its name is but it is a high powered growth substance found in fetuses. Mr. Jang and his evil-doers have found a way to create a synthetic form which provides a new high for druggies. He plans to introduce it to Europe and America using 4 mules to carry the baggies sewn into their stomachs, specifically the intestine.

About this time I'm thinking this is a movie that might have starred Milla Jovovich. But watching Ms. Johansson in this early scene suggested otherwise. She's very convincing simulating the terror one must feel in a situation like this. An American girl in a foreign country, grabbed in a public area, whisked before a terrorist drug thug in the midst of other casualties in nearby rooms. It is an unsettling scene and some great acting.

Lucy and the other 3 are given passports and plane tickets. While waiting for her flight, Lucy is kept in a dingy room with two guards who are looking for a bit of sex before putting her on the plane. When Lucy resists, one of the guards beats her senseless which causes the WD-40 to leak. This in turn causes a wiring malfunction inside Lucy's body. Rather than kill her, it gives her a hypo-jolt of stimulus and increased brain function.

After disposing of a room full of guards, she returns to her apartment and makes a call to her mother. This is mostly a one-sided conversation where Lucy tells her mother that she loves her. She remembers her mother's kisses and affection over the years, even going back to her infant days of nursing. She does this in great detail in a full screen close-up of Johansson's face. Another acting lesson.

A backdrop to this story is that Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman), a noted neuroscientist has been studying the use of the brain and how humans don't tap into much more than 10% with 20% a theoretical max. Now frankly, as you might have guessed by now, I'm no neurologist or scientist of any kind, but I'm buying all of this because Morgan Freeman is saying it. I'm going with it. And if you want to enjoy the movie, so should you. A brief aside please. Lucy is not only our heroine's name but the name given a skeleton found years ago who is believed to be the earliest example of a bridge between ape and human. We see several flashes of this humanoid during the film.

Speaking of flashes. Whenever Lucy gets a new jolt of brainpower the screen fills with some eye-popping visuals. I saw the film straight and on a huge screen with the newish Dolby Atmos sound, it was pretty thrilling. We see Johansson take her character slowly from a frightened young woman to an almost robotic machine with each gush of WD-40 entering her system. I will caution viewers expecting non-stop action sequences of Lucy kicking butt. They may be disappointed. She does plenty, but with each jolt of brainpower she's more into neutralizing her foes rather than killing them. But there is an inventive race against time throughout the Paris streets with the enhanced Lucy at the car's controls.

Director and writer Luc Besson gets back in the game with this entertaining film even with its slightly ridiculous premise.

The Thief of Bagdad [Blu-ray]
The Thief of Bagdad [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Douglas Fairbanks
Price: $14.49
28 used & new from $12.75

5.0 out of 5 stars (BLU RAY REVIEW: Cohen Film Collection) - "Happiness Must Be Earned", July 26, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
4.5 Stars

This wonderful film by Raoul Walsh, and starring Douglas Fairbanks has been properly restored by The Cohen Media Group. The excellent transfer came from two 35mm negatives and retains the original color tints of the film. I was a bit confused as to why the inter-titles would change color however. The transfer comes with a 1080p video resolution and a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, as was the original film. Frankly I was expecting the usual problems with many of these films from the silent era. But I have no complaints. Cohen has done a masterful job with only barely noticeable imperfections (flicker, scratches). Obviously the film will not look as good as modern day movies, but this is about as good as I've seen for movie from this era.

While the film is silent, an enhanced musical score comes from a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track (lossless 2.0 stereo is also available). The score comes from Carl Davis who also conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra. He uses flourishes from Rimsky-Korsakov to supplement his own work. It works and sounds perfect for the film, even down to the drum beats in synch with some of the film action. There are no language options other than the English inter-titles.

Extras include an audio commentary by Fairbanks biographer Jeffrey Vance, a series of photographs taken during the shoot and a restoration trailer. There is also a booklet with an essay by Laura Boyes, the film curator of the North Carolina Museum of Art.

I won't go into great detail regarding the plot itself but here it is. The fantasy is set in the caliphate of Bagdad. A ripped and athletic Fairbanks plays Ahmed (the thief) who manages to survive by hoodwinking the wealthier citizenry. He manages to steal a magical rope from a street magician. With it he is able to make it into a climbable pole. He and his associate (Snitz Edwards) devise a plan to climb the wall of the Caliph's palace and steal a large treasure. He stumbles into the sleeping quarters of the young princess (Julanne Johnston) and is instantly smitten. These early scenes feature the 40 year old Fairbanks jumping over rocks, blocks and other barriers. He also is adept at climbing walls and a rope/pole. It's pretty remarkable stuff.

The Caliph (Brandon Hurst) has decided it's now time to marry off his daughter and invites suitors to show their stuff. Three princes show up; a Persian, an Indian and a Mongol (Sojin Kamiyama). The Mongol sees this as an easy way to conquer Bagdad without blood being spilled. If the princess doesn't chose him, he's prepared to take the city by force. Ahmed decides to disguise himself as a prince and make a play for the princess himself. The princess decides she will wed whoever ventures into the countryside and return with the most valuable gift. She gives them 7 moons to get the gift and return.

Ahmed, until now a "non-believer" seeks guidance from a "Holy Man" (Charles Belcher). He is sent on a dangerous mission to obtain a magical box, but he must fight a series of monsters along the way. The Mongol has a secret weapon inside the palace in the form of slave girl (Anna May Wong), one of the princess's attendants. She poisons the princess with some smoke and now the race is on to get back to the palace. The Indian (Noble Johnson) is able to see the ill princess using his found crystal ball. They use the Persian's (Mathilde Comont) found flying carpet to get there, and when they do, the Mongol's magic elixir brings the young woman back from near death. All the while, Ahmed is racing back with the magic box riding a flying horse.

This is all pretty cool by the way. The film is big and grand. It has huge sets and some very convincing special effects. Sure a piano wire is visible once and a while but I'm not sure how they did the thing with Ahmed turning into a whirling dervish. I suspect theater goers of 1924 were stunned by the grandeur of the film and I'm sure the ladies were swooning over Fairbanks's bare chest and gymnastics. The film does require some patience even for lovers of silent films. It runs 2 ˝ hours but is highly enjoyable. A great package.

Blue Caprice
Blue Caprice
DVD ~ Joey Lauren Adams
Price: $13.99
50 used & new from $5.43

3.0 out of 5 stars Well-made but unnecessary depiction of evil, July 24, 2014
This review is from: Blue Caprice (DVD)
This is the story that was in the headlines in 2002 about the sniper who killed at least 10 people in the D.C., Virginia, Maryland area. Others were severely wounded. Several other killings took place in Washington State and Louisiana and elsewhere attributable to John Allen Muhammad (Isaiah Washington) and his protégé, Lee Boyd Malvo (Tequan Richmond).

The two met in Antigua where Malvo's mother essentially abandon him at the age of 15. He was taken in by Muhammad who had kidnapped his 3 kids from their mother. They are eventually returned and Muhammad and Malvo head to Tacoma where John lived. Over time Muhammad, a hot-headed psychopath, teaches Malvo how to steal, shoot guns and eventually kill. Director Alexandre Moors, in his first feature film, does a good job depicting the building relationship between the two, sickening as it is.

Muhammad was bent upon killing anyone for any reason. In fact that was his plan. Keep the police guessing. No pattern, no connection. Random. And Malvo, a crack shot, was his weapon. The film builds slowly, creating just the right tension at the right places. While we see the side of the two killers and how they evolve, Moors does nothing to balance the horrific events. Who were the victims? What were they like? How about something in the epilog? This is a strong first effort for director Moors who also developed the story, but I'm not sure it was necessary or served any purpose.

Sex Tape
Sex Tape
Price: $14.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The title promises much but delivers little, July 24, 2014
This review is from: Sex Tape (Amazon Instant Video)
Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz star as Jay and Annie, a married couple with a couple kids living in a nice suburban neighborhood. Everything seems hunky-dory except their sex life has all but disappeared. No time, what with Annie's blog and Jay's...uh, whatever it is that he does. Kids graduating from the 5th grade. Oh, the horror of it all.

Jay has a habit of buying scores of $600 iPads, loading them up with his most recent musical playlists then giving them away to family, friends and even the mailman. So generous. In order to spice up their love life, they decide to make a sex tape on the iPad. I suspect I can stop now, because even a casual film watcher can guess the rest of the story. Yep, Jay "forgets" to delete the video and mistakenly synchs it to all of the iPads his given away. So the rest of the film has the couple tracking down iPads before they see the video.

Even if you get past the unlikely premise, the film fails from a poor script, a lack of comedy and worst of all, very few naughty bits. Sure we get to see plenty of rear-enders. And as Jay says to Annie, "your ass is your best part." Well, he's right about that. But no frontal and just a whisper of side-boobal. Save your money.

Shure SFG-2 Stylus Tracking Force Gauge
Shure SFG-2 Stylus Tracking Force Gauge
Price: $30.29
9 used & new from $19.49

4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent tool for setting your phono cartridge's tracking force, July 22, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I purchased this little manual VTF gauge to replace/augment my old AR plastic teeter-totter tool. That little guy had served me well, but I've somehow lost one of the little plastic weighted discs. I'm not willing to spend a fortune to get the cartridge force accurate to the nearest microgram, so I thought I'd give this simple gizmo a try. It works easily enough but like the old AR device, you will need a steady hand. The moveable marker is easily pushed off track with a hand slip or table vibration. Not a big complaint. It works as described.

AudioQuest Y splitter - one RCA female to two RCA male 6in (15.24cm) cable
AudioQuest Y splitter - one RCA female to two RCA male 6in (15.24cm) cable
Price: $16.75
7 used & new from $16.70

5.0 out of 5 stars Solid construction, excellent value, July 22, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I'm a fan of Audioquest cables. They offer terrific value for those looking for a step up from run of the mill interconnects and speaker cabling. I used this splitter to connect a subwoofer to my pre-amp. While the improvement wasn't dramatic it was evident. Enough so that I needed to recalibrate my sub's settings.

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