Category Archives: DVD/Blu-Ray Reviews

Blu-Ray Review: Counterpart Season 1

Counterpart: Season 1 [Blu-ray]

Synopsis:
Howard Silk (JK Simmons) is a lowly cog in the bureaucratic machinery of a Berlin-based United Nations spy agency. When Howard discovers that his organization safeguards the secret of a crossing into a parallel dimension, he is thrust into a shadow world of intrigue, danger, and double cross… where the only man he can trust is his near-identical counterpart from this parallel world. The show explores themes of identity, fate, and lost love, posing the eternal question, “what if our lives could have been different?”

Review:
Howard Silk is in a dead-end job and lives a seemingly sad, dull existence. But when his double from an alternate world arrives, Howard’s life is turned upside down. The company he’s been working for has been hiding a huge secret since the Cold War. And Howard’s counterpart is nothing like him.

Counterpart is a STARZ original that I had never heard of until I received the promo. Blending science fiction and a spy thriller, this was a surprising series that I binge-watched in one weekend. I was completely hooked. It’s Fringe meets The Americans. Since it’s on a premium network, they (of course) had to throw in unnecessary nudity that otherwise would have made it a show I’d recommend to friends. It’s a pulse-pounding, suspenseful series with plenty of intrigue and drama.

JK Simmons does an amazing job of playing the same man as two distinctly different characters. They look exactly the same, but it’s obvious who’s who. It’s a slow build at times, but completely unpredictable. There are a lot of questions still lingering. And a bit of a cliffhanger ending, left me wanting more. I look forward to seeing the story unfold in future seasons.

Blu-Ray Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One
Own Ready Player One on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack, 3D Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD on July 24, or Own It Now on Digital!

Synopsis:
In the year 2045, the real world is a harsh place. The only time Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) truly feels alive is when he escapes to the OASIS, an immersive virtual universe where most of humanity spend their days. In the OASIS, you can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone—the only limits are your own imagination. The OASIS was created by the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance), who left his immense fortune and total control of the OASIS to the winner of a three-part contest he designed to find a worthy heir. When Wade conquers the first challenge of the reality-bending treasure hunt, he and his friends—known as the High Five—are hurled into a fantastical universe of discovery and danger to save the OASIS and their world.

Review:
Wade Watts spends most of his free time on a virtual treasure hunt for a legendary prize to control the OASIS – the virtual world where everyone retreats. When Wade finds the first key, he soon finds danger from a powerful corporation that will do anything to seize control of the OASIS.

I had read the original novel years ago, but forgot enough to not compare the story too much. The retro, 80s references and music made this extremely fun and nostalgic for me. And even though I’m not a gamer, I enjoyed the unique landscape of the OASIS – and that it’s more integral to the story than the real world. The acting is great. But it’s the OASIS itself that steals the scenes – from immersion into movies to stunning landscapes and and endless variety of colorful avatars. The story is full of suspense, heartfelt drama, romance, and plenty of humor. This is definitely a film I’ll watch again and again.

Blu-Ray Review: Rampage

Rampage

Synopsis:
In 1993, a breakthrough new technology gave scientists a path to treat incurable diseases through genetic editing. In 2016, due to its potential for misuse, the U.S. Intelligence Community designated genetic editing a “Weapon of Mass Destruction and Proliferation.”

Johnson stars as primatologist Davis Okoye, a man who keeps people at a distance but shares an unshakable bond with George, the extraordinarily intelligent, incredibly rare albino silverback gorilla who has been in his care since he rescued the young orphan from poachers. But a rogue genetic experiment gone awry mutates this gentle ape into a raging creature of enormous size.

To make matters worse, it’s soon discovered there are other similarly altered animals. As these newly created super creatures tear across North America, destroying everything in their path, Okoye teams with discredited geneticist Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) to secure an antidote, fighting his way through an ever-changing battlefield, not only to halt a global catastrophe but to save the fearsome creature that was once his friend.

Review:
Davis (Dwayne Johnson) is great with animals, and has a special bond with the albino gorilla George. But when one of several containers carrying an experimental virus crashes to Earth, George is exposed and begins growing and showing unusual aggression. When the government hunts down George and the other infected animals, Davis scientist Kate (Naomie Harris) try to find another way to stop the animals before more lives are lost and Chicago is destroyed.

Rampage is based on a video game that I knew nothing about. But it had the feel of King Kong – if he had lived like Koko the gorilla before growing to his enormous size. There is quite a bit of humor and drama that lightened an otherwise violent, intense film. And Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays a surprising character that defied my expectations. This action-packed, fast-paced story was a lot of fun. The villains and several of the surprises and fight scenes were over-the-top and silly. But it’s a action film based on a game – and one that I really enjoyed.

Special Features:
“Rampage” 4K Ultra HD, 3D Blu-Ray, Blu-ray Combo Pack contains the following special features:
• Not A Game Anymore – From arcade sensation to movie monster epic, we explore how the Midway video game inspired the filmmakers to create the ultimate disaster film.
• Gag Reel – Hilarious outtakes and mishaps captured during production.
• Deleted Scenes – Deleted scenes that barely missed the final theatrical cut.
• Rampage – Actors in Action: Strap in for a wild ride as Dwayne Johnson, Joe Manganiello and the cast prepare for the film’s demanding stunts and explosive set pieces.
• Trio of Destruction – Follow the innovative design team and the artists at Weta Digital as they bring to life the biggest and baddest monsters for the film’s climactic battle royal.
• Attack on Chicago – Director Brad Peyton reveals the challenges of filming on-location in Chicago and turning digital destruction into a cinematic reality.
• Bringing George to Life – Discover the wonder of what it’s like to be a gorilla, as movement coordinator Terry Notary teaches actor Jason Liles how to move, behave and become “George.”

“Rampage” DVD contains:
• Not A Game Anymore – From arcade sensation to movie monster epic, we explore how the Midway video game inspired the filmmakers to create the ultimate disaster film.

Blu-Ray Review: A Quiet Place

A Quiet Place

A QUIET PLACE debuts on Digital June 26, 2018 and on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD July 10.

Synopsis:
A QUIET PLACE is a taut and original thriller that follows a family who must navigate their lives in silence to avoid mysterious creatures that hunt by sound. Knowing that even the slightest whisper or footstep can bring death, Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and Lee (John Krasinski) are determined to find a way to protect their children at all costs while they desperately search for a way to fight back.

Review:
The story begins post-apocalypse. A mother and father do their best to protect their children, yet raise them to be self-sufficient and able to take care of themselves if need be. They live isolated and in complete silence in order to hide from deadly creatures that hunt by sound.

A Quiet Place is a unique and spectacularly intense film. Almost the entire film is silent, other than occasional intense music, and just a few lines of quiet dialog. There is a bit of sign language with subtitles. But for the most part, the story is told through the incredible acting from this small cast of talented actors. There is quiet a bit of slow pacing, that only seemed to add to the intense suspense – as viewers wonder when the next jump scare will come. As with many horror films, there are some plot holes. But this film does an amazing job of creating a feeling of terror, with very little blood. The monsters looked a lot like the demogorgon from Stranger Things season 1. And the story reminded me a bit of Signs, but much scarier as the aliens are faster and more deadly.

Special Features Include:
Blu-ray
• Feature film in high definition
• Bonus Content:
o Creating the Quiet – Behind the Scenes of A QUIET PLACE
o The Sound of Darkness – Editing Sound for A QUIET PLACE
o A Reason for Silence – The Visual Effects of A QUIET PLACE
DVD
• Feature film in standard definition

Blu-Ray Review: Escape Plan 2: Hades

Escape Plan 2: Hades

Synopsis:
Years after he fought his way out of an inescapable prison, Ray Breslin (Academy Award® nominee and Golden Globe® winner Sylvester Stallone) has organized a new top-notch security force. But when one of his team members goes missing, Breslin must return to the hell he once escaped from to save his friend from the prison’s brutal human battleground known as Hades.

Review:
When I saw that this film was available to review, I jumped at the chance as I really enjoyed the first one. However, I now know why I had never heard they even made a sequel. The film begins with an escape from what looks like a terrorist cell by individuals I’ve never seen before. In fact, I had no idea who anyone was until after the whole scenario was over. It seems Sly’s character, Ray Breslin, has a whole team of young proteges who break out of prisons. The film mostly stars Huang Xiaoming as Shu, the wooden character who hears Ray’s voice in his head throughout the movie as he tries to escape the super-prison Hades.

At some points, this felt like more of a martial arts film than about escaping from a prison. The story is convoluted and disjointed. And the special effects were laughable. Dave Bautista was wasted talent. And I never really cared whether or not Shu and the rest of them got out of the not-so-special prison. I saw that there was a featurette of the robot in the film. This was funny as it didn’t have more than a couple minutes screen time. Maybe it would have been more interesting if it was an actual character in the film. I was tempted many times to fast forward. I now wish I had.

Special Features:
– “Making Escape Plan 2: Hades” Featurette
– “Creating the Look of Escape Plan 2: Hades” Featurette
– Building the Robot of Escape Plan 2: Hades” Featurette
– Extended Cast/ Crew Interviews

Blu-Ray Review: Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider 4K Blu-ray

Synopsis:
Lara Croft is the fiercely independent daughter of an eccentric adventurer who vanished when she was scarcely a teen. Now a young woman of 21 without any real focus or purpose, Lara navigates the chaotic streets of trendy East London as a bike courier, barely making the rent. Determined to forge her own path, she refuses to take the reins of her father’s global empire just as staunchly as she rejects the idea that he’s truly gone. Advised to face the facts and move forward after seven years without him, even Lara can’t understand what drives her to finally solve the puzzle of his mysterious death.

Review:
Alicia Vikander is the new Lara Croft – who was fantastic as an aimless young woman who becomes an archaeologist action hero. The research that her father was involved in is not very engaging – and pretty forgettable. This film was more of Lara’s journey and kind of a coming-of-age story. The actual archaeological spot and clues are fairly disappointing – there just isn’t much to it. But the suspense and thrills are spot on – as well as Vikander’s performance. Now that we have her backstory, I look forward to more interesting stories and actual tomb raiding. I certainly hope we get to see more of these films.

Own Tomb Raider on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack, 3D Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD on June 12, or Own It Now on Digital!

Blu-Ray Review: Annihilation

Annihilation 4K UHD Blu-Ray + Blu-Ray + Digital HD
On Blu-ray™ Combo Pack & DVD May 29, 2018
On Digital May 22

Synopsis:
Biologist and former soldier Lena (Natalie Portman) is shocked when her missing husband (Oscar Isaac) comes home near death from a top-secret mission into The Shimmer, a mysterious quarantine zone no one has ever returned from. Now, Lena and her elite team must enter a beautiful, deadly world of mutated landscapes and creatures, to discover how to stop the growing phenomenon that threatens all life on Earth. The film also stars Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, and Tuva Novotny.

Review:
Lena enters The Shimmer to get answers about what happened to her husband. Out of everyone who has entered so far, only he has returned alive but has changed somehow. The story is told after Lena returns – an interrogation to get her take on the events during her time in The Shimmer. Then, to make it a bit confusing, we keep getting glimpses of Lena’s earlier life with her husband. I’m guessing it’s to build sympathy for the characters, but instead it’s jarring and confusing.

Annihilation is a sci-fi, psychological thriller. There is plenty of drama and suspense. And several scary, graphic scenes push this into rated-R territory. But it’s certainly not action-packed. In fact, it was much to slow and drawn-out for my taste. I prefer movies with either more character development or a strong story. This was somewhere in between. And Lena has very little personality. The whole Shimmer area and affects of the zone are slowly revealed, but never fully explained what it is or where it came from. I really wanted to like this film more based on other reviews. I did enjoy the final scene of the film. And the ending did have me thinking about it long after the movie ended.

Special Features Include:
Blu-ray:
• Feature film in high definition
• Bonus Content:
o Part 1 – SOUTHERN REACH
-Refractions – See how director Alex Garland created the tone, textures and color palettes for the various film environments on set.
-For Those That Follow – Listen to the cast’s perspective on their roles and learn why they found the story so intriguing.
o Part 2 – AREA X
-Shimmer – See how filmmakers transformed real set locations to create the world of Annihilation.
-Vanished into Havoc – Check out all the action as cast and crew walk you through the mind-blowing stunts and special effects.
o Part 3 – TO THE LIGHTHOUSE
-Unfathomable Mind – Learn why the visual effects are integral to achieving director Alex Garland’s overall vision for Annihilation.
-The Last Phase – Listen to the cast and crew share their fondest memories from filming Annihilation.

DVD:
• Feature film in standard definition

4K Blu-Ray Review: Justice League

Justice League 4K Blu-Ray

Synopsis:
Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to find and recruit a team of metahumans to stand against this newly awakened threat. But despite the formation of this unprecedented league of heroes—Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash—it may already be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.

Review:
When the evil Steppenwolf arrives from another world, he threatens to remake Earth into a hellish landscape. And only a team of super heroes can hope to defeat him. Batman and Wonder Woman seek out Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg to help. But the newly formed team is awkward and disjointed. And Steppenwolf is unlike any villain they have fought before.

Justice League has been the culmination of several films to a big team-up movie. DC hasn’t had the best track record lately with films, Wonder Woman being the exception. The pacing is a bit disjointed. The gathering of the team slows the film down, when the pacing should be sped up as Steppenwolf is only growing stronger as he gathers the mysterious boxes (that resemble the tesseract from Avengers). In fact, it’s hard not to compare Justice League to the Marvel films. Thankfully, this wasn’t as dark as Batman v Superman and contained a lot more humor. Ezra Miller as The Flash was great comedy relief, and a great character with the role of an over-excited little brother. In fact, the three newest recruits have the most interesting backstories that demand standalone films. While there wasn’t any character-development in the villain, we were able to get more story from the team leading up to an exciting finale.

The most disappointing element – that just about ruined the film for me, was Henry Cavill’s ridiculous CGI-removed mustache. It was awful and hard to ignore. It would have been better if he was written out of the film altogether. Despite the faults, it was still an entertaining film with bits of promise for future films. It was certainly action-packed and full of suspense. I still look forward to future DC films, hoping they learn from past mistakes.

Own Justice League on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD on March 13, or Own It Early on Digital on Now!