Category Archives: Movie Reviews

Blu Ray Spotlight: Mad Max Trilogy

Mad Max Trilogy Blu Ray

Synopsis:
The three films – Mad Max (1979), Mad Max Road Warrior (1982) and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) – are all set in the near-future in Australia. From the very first film, Oscar® winner George Miller (Happy Feet, 2006) proved a master at creating the gritty, bleak dystopian world and staging the incredible car stunts and crashes in the era when stuntmen, not computers, achieved the effects. All three movies starred Mel Gibson, virtually unknown until after the second film, as Max Rockatansky, a highway cop traveling through the Outback in a society descending into chaos. The films started Gibson on his road to international superstardom, led to his signature Lethal Weapon series, and later two Academy Awards® for his roles as producer and director of Braveheart (1995).

Mad Max:
A vengeful Australian policeman sets out to avenge his partner, his wife, and his son whom were murdered by a motorcycle gang in retaliation for the death of their leader.

Mad Max Road Warrior:
In the post-apocolyptic Australian wasteland, a cynical drifter agrees to help a small, gasoline-rich, community escape a band of bandits.

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome:
A former Australian policeman is rescued by a tribe of children when he is banished from a desert town and sent into the desert to die by the desert town’s evil queen.

The blu ray set is packaged in a collector’s tin with separate cover art. It’s a great addition to any classic scifi fan’s movie library. The films look great in HD, though I’m not sure the sound was remastered. The action and car chase scenes are loud and clear, but the dialog is hard to understand. And no, it’s not the Australian accents. Besides having to turn up/down the volume constantly, I really enjoyed revisiting these cult classic action films.

Star Trek Into Darkness (Non-Spoiler) Movie Review

Star Trek Into Darkness

Synopsis:
When the crew of the Enterprise is called back home, they find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization has detonated the fleet and everything it stands for, leaving our world in a state of crisis. With a personal score to settle, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction. As our heroes are propelled into an epic chess game of life and death, love will be challenged, friendships will be torn apart, and sacrifices must be made for the only family Kirk has left: his crew.

Non-Spoiler Review:
Four years have passed since JJ Abrams’ last Star Trek film. And it was well worth the wait. Diehard Trek fans as well as new fans to the franchise will enjoy this fast-paced, action-packed adventure. Those familiar with the original series will, of course, catch more clues and references to the impending story and correlation to the alternate version. And this super-fan was not disappointed in the least. My one complaint is that Abrams could stand to tone down the lens flares during the bridge scenes.

Full of intense fight scenes, drama, suspense, intrigue, and plenty of humor, Star Trek Into Darkness is an excellent sequel. And while I loved the story, the strong point for the film is the characters. We had the backstory and groundwork set in the previous film, and here we see the characters grow and their relationships develop. The cast and acting is spot-on, once again. Chris Pine (Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock), and Simon Pegg (Scotty) have great, central roles in this film. I wish Karl Urban (Bones) had more screen time. I think he’s fantastic. And of course, Benedict Cumberbatch was brilliant in his complex, villainous role.

While some of the big mystery reveals were a bit predictable, especially to fans, I think it served as a respectable homage. I only hope we don’t have to wait another four years to see another installment. But with Abrams focusing on Star Wars next, Star Trek will need to pass on to another director for that to happen. A strong foundation has been laid here with this alternate crew with limitless possibilities for new stories and adventures, whether it be more films, tv, or novels. I’ll certainly be going to see this one a few more times in the theater, especially on IMAX. The 3D screening was nice, but after the first hour I forgot about it. Beyond the first few scenes, I don’t think the 3D is necessary. Either way, don’t miss this exciting sequel.

Blu-Ray Review: Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas available on Blu-ray Combo pack, DVD and Digital Download 5/14

Synopsis:
From acclaimed filmmakers Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, and Andy Wachowski, the powerful and inspiring epic drama “Cloud Atlas” explores how the actions and consequences of individual lives impact one another throughout the past, the present and the future.

Action, mystery and romance weave dramatically through the story as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and a single act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution in the distant future.

Review:
The film jumps around six different stories in six different time periods. In 1849, a dying lawyer discovers an escaped, stowaway slave in his cabin. In 1936, young composer gets the chance of a lifetime working with an aging, famous composer. In 1973, a journalist gets wrapped up in dangerous corporate espionage. In 2012, a publisher finds himself locked up in a nursing home against his will. In 2144 Korea, a clone restaurant server dreams of something more than her life as a slave. And in the far distant future, a tribesman deals with an inner demon while escorting a woman to the forbidden mountains. Eventually, the stories begin weaving together with the message that “Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.” And the point is further pushed as the same actors play a variety of roles across each time period’s story. Most are easy to point out, despite the makeup. And in the end credits, each actor is shown in each role they had.

I haven’t read the book, so the story was new to me – other than the reviews from friends of mine. I had low expectations, hearing it was an over-done artsy film. But I was surprised by the power and drama of each story – moving and poignant. The acting was phenomenal. The music was enchanting. And the cinematography and special effects were stunning. The movie does drag at times though, and at almost three hours runtime became tiresome. Quite a bit could have been cut out and still had the same effect. While it’s a visually striking film, it was also emotionally draining. I don’t think that I would watch it again without skipping through a lot. But I’m glad I finally watched this epic fantasy. Most reviewers used the word “ambitious” when describing Cloud Atlas. I agree.

Blu-ray and DVD Elements:
Cloud Atlas Blu-ray Combo Pack contains the following special features:
• A Film Like No Other
• Everything is Connected
• The Impossible Adaptation
• The Essence of Acting
• Spaceships, Slaves and Sextets
• The Bold Science Fiction of Cloud Atlas
• Eternal Recurrence: Love, Life, and Longing in Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas Standard Definition DVD contains the following special features:
• A Film Like No Other

Blu-Ray Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

SYNOPSIS:
The adventure follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome Dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the Wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of 13 Dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield. Their journey will take them into the Wild, through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins, Orcs and deadly Wargs, as well as a mysterious and sinister figure known only as the Necromancer.

Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain, first they must escape the Goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever…Gollum. Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of ingenuity and courage that surprise even him, he also gains possession of Gollum’s “precious” ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities…A simple, gold ring that is tied to the fate of all Middle-earth in ways Bilbo cannot begin to know.

REVIEW:
Martin Freeman (“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”) stars as Bilbo Baggins. He’s a reluctant hero with a good heart and extremely likeable. Sir Ian McKellen returns to his role as Gandalf the Grey – a younger Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Returning roles also include: Cate Blanchett as Galadriel; Ian Holm as Old Bilbo; Christopher Lee as Saruman; Hugo Weaving as Elrond; Elijah Wood as Frodo; and Andy Serkis as Gollum. It’s a bit odd going back and doing a prequel story, making characters younger. But with the success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it’s not surprising that The Hobbit was picked up as well.

Nine years after the release of the Return of the King also means that the CGI and cinematography is even that much more fantastic. The rich landscapes are breathtaking. And the creature effects are incredibly impressive and life-like. In fact, my only complaint is that the novel The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien has been split into three movies. It felt like parts of this installment could have been skipped in order to fit everything in – and just made into a slightly longer film. But I’m sure the movie makers want the extra money that 3 films can bring instead of 1 or even 2.

This first installment in the Hobbit trilogy is a fun, thrilling, adventure. Full of humor, suspense, drama, and magic – fantasy fans will certainly enjoy. Since this is the first in the trilogy of films (and it’s based on only one novel) the film ends in an abrupt, awkward place. And the wait for the next installments seem painfully long.

BLU-RAY AND DVD ELEMENTS:
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack and DVD Special Edition contain the following special features:

Full Suite of Peter Jackson’s Production Videos. Enter Middle-earth of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey as Academy Award-winning Director Peter Jackson takes you behind the scenes, on location and amidst the star-studded cast in a series of video journals that puts you in the forefront of latest in filmmaking with more than two hours of additional content. Highlights of the journals include:
o Start of Production
o Location Scouting
o Filming in 3D
o Post-production Overview
o Wellington World Premiere

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was released on December 14, 2012, with the second film, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, releasing December 13, 2013, and the third film, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, slated for July 18, 2014.

Begin your Hobbit Collection by owning the first installment – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey available on Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack and 2-disc DVD Special Edition on 3/19

SciFi Book AND Movie Review: Warm Bodies

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

Book Synopsis:
R is having a no-life crisis—he is a zombie. He has no memories, no identity, and no pulse, but he is a little different from his fellow Dead. He may occasionally eat people, but he’d rather be riding abandoned airport escalators, listening to Sinatra in the cozy 747 he calls home, or collecting souvenirs from the ruins of civilization.
And then he meets a girl.

First as his captive, then his reluctant house guest, Julie is a blast of living color in R’s gray landscape, and something inside him begins to bloom. He doesn’t want to eat this girl—although she looks delicious—he wants to protect her. But their unlikely bond will cause ripples they can’t imagine, and their hopeless world won’t change without a fight.

Review:
I saw the film based on this book first. Loved it. Then I had to read the original story. There are some noticeable differences, especially in the ending and how the “Bonies” (skeleton, less human-like zombies) are treated. R is a zombie with no memory of his past, but he’s different from his companions. He collects things that help him to feel something; and he dislikes having to kill to feed. He’s conflicted about his nature. And when he kills a young man and claims his memories, something in R changes when he sees Julie.

Julie is a spirited young woman who tries to hold onto hope for the future despite her grim surroundings. Despite being brought back into a lair of zombies, she is brave and almost fearless. Her feelings for R start with confusion, then fascination, then those feelings slowly develop into something more.

This is no ordinary zombie story of gore and destruction. This is a love story centering on R’s self-reflection and gradual change. The novel is darker and more somber than the film. But I loved both in their own ways. I think the changes worked well for the film and made it more appealing to a larger audience. The film was well-cast, though slightly younger. Nicholas Hoult was exceptional and brought to “R” to life – pun intended. The film ends in an upbeat, heartfelt and satisfying conclusion. And the novel, though somewhat different, does to a milder extent as well, but leaves room for an upcoming sequel. Well-paced and full of suspense, adventure, humor, and romance – Warm Bodies is one of my favorite films and reads this year.

3 Part Web Series: Meridian

Check out this short, interactive new web series starring Orlando Jones. It’s a suspenseful mystery fused with a fantasy/scifi element.


From the official website:
MERIDIAN: Where the past, future and present intertwine.

Enter the world of Meridian, a 3-part adventure where time and space expand and contract, revealing a mystery, one sliver at a time.

Follow Jeff (Orlando Jones), a smart but directionless techie, some would say an “unchallenged” geek, as he falls down a mystic rabbit hole-leaving behind his dead-end job in tech support. He is thrust into the stuff of legend when he comes across an ancient Aztec necklace, revealing past and future events hidden from everyone else and changing his life forever.

Jeff has to move fast and think even faster if he is to survive.

Watch Part 1 here! Or the non-interactive version below.

Watch Part 2 here!

Watch Part 3 here on November 26th!

Blu-Ray Review: Wrath of the Titans

Wrath of the Titans Blu-ray Edition

Official Synopsis:
A decade after his heroic defeat of the monstrous Kraken, Perseus (Worthington)—the demigod son of Zeus (Neeson)—is attempting to live quietly as a village fisherman and the sole parent to his 10-year-old son, Helius. But unbeknownst to Perseus, a struggle for supremacy has been raging between the gods that will come to threaten his idyllic life. Dangerously weakened by humanity’s lack of devotion, the gods are losing hold of their immortality, as well as control over the imprisoned Titans and their ferocious leader, Kronos, father of the long-ruling brothers Zeus, Hades (Fiennes) and Poseidon (Danny Huston). The triumvirate had overthrown their powerful father long ago, leaving him to rot in the gloomy abyss of Tartarus, a dungeon that lies deep within the cavernous Underworld.

Now, Perseus cannot ignore his true calling as Hades, along with Zeus’ godly son, Ares (Edgar Ramirez), switches loyalties and makes a deal with Kronos to capture Zeus. The Titan’s strength grows as Zeus’ remaining godly powers are siphoned…and hell is unleashed on earth. Enlisting the help of the warrior Queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike), Poseidon’s demigod son Agenor (Toby Kebbell), and fallen god Hephaestus (Bill Nighy), Perseus bravely embarks on a treacherous quest into the Underworld to rescue Zeus, overthrow the Titans and save mankind.

WRATH OF THE TITANS

Review:
This is the sequel to 2010’s Clash of the Titans, which looks incredibly similar in all but the story details. This time, Perseus and his small band of adventurers search for a powerful weapon to drive back the Titan Kronos and keep him imprisoned. In Clash of the Titans, Perseus had to battle Medusa in order to have a weapon to defeat the Kraken monster and to save the Princess Andromeda. In both films, Perseus goes up against surprisingly not-so-immortal gods and a slew of ugly, monstrous creatures attack humans with little-to-no way to defend themselves. Perseus is only half human though, as son of Zeus. And as Zeus’ champion, Perseus becomes humanity’s hero once again.

I’m usually a fan of films and novels that take a unique approach to Greek mythology, but Wrath of the Titans takes it a bit too far for my taste. The same immortal gods Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades from the previous film suddenly become weak, easily injured and mortal – without sufficient explanation. The film starts out very slow with dragging dialog that doesn’t really further the plot, which is unfortunate since the film’s saving grace is the adventure and combat scenes. Despite its flaws, I still enjoyed the fantastic special effects and CGI creatures, action-packed thrills, and even a bit of humor.

Blu-ray Special Features:
Maximum Movie Mode: Control your destiny and choose one of two unique experiences: The Path of Men or The Path of Gods
– Focus Points
§ Battling the Chimera
§ Who Are The Titans?
§ Agenor: The Other Demi-God
§ The Cyclops Fight
§ Prison of the Titans
§ Minotaur: The Human Nightmare
§ The Heavens Raise Hell on Earth
§ Hephaestus: God of Fire
§ Lost in Tartarus’ Labyrinth
§ Creatures of the Titans
– Storyboard Comparisons
– Deleted Scenes and more
DVD disc: Feature film in standard definition

Trailer:

Blu-Ray Review: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Blu-ray/DVD Combo + UltraViolet Digital Copy)

Official Synopsis:
Around the globe, headlines break the news: a scandal takes down an Indian cotton tycoon; a Chinese opium trader dies of an apparent overdose; bombings in Strasbourg and Vienna; the death of an American steel magnate… no one sees the connective thread between these seemingly random events—no one, that is, except the great Sherlock Holmes, who has discerned a deliberate web of death and destruction. At its center sits a singularly sinister spider: Moriarty.

Holmes’ investigation into Moriarty’s plot becomes more dangerous as it leads him and Watson out of London to France, Germany and finally Switzerland. But the cunning Moriarty is always one step ahead, and moving perilously close to completing his ominous plan. If he succeeds, it will not only bring him immense wealth and power but alter the course of history.

Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law return as Holmes and Watson, along with Rachel McAdams, Kelly Reilly, and other minor characters from the previous film. Downey and Law have the same fantastic chemistry as before. Though, Downey seems to be acting even more eccentric than ever as he follows the clues and his wild theories on a high speed adventure across Europe. Noomi Rapace as Madam Simza, a gypsy who Downey and Law must team up with along the way. Simza is a mysterious character, though a bit wooden. Jared Harris does an excellent job as the infamous Professor Moriarty. As Holmes’ greatest adversary in the original novels, Moriarty is the only person who is on the same intellectual level as Holmes.

A Game of Shadows is a strong sequel to Downey’s first Sherlock Holmes film. I enjoyed this story a bit more in fact, as there were no elements of the bizarre mysticism of the first. This was another wild ride of humor, drama, mystery, and action-packed adventure. The mystery and suspense kept me guessing and on the edge of my seat. And the many comic relief lines had me laughing out loud. The suspense built to a massive climactic ending that was a bit predictable, yet completely enjoyable all the same. I hope this series continues with the same fine actors and keeps the light-hearted humor paired with intense action and intrigue.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Own it on Blu-ray™ Combo Pack or Digital Download 6.12.12
Be sure to check out the free Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows movie app for iPad2 or Kindle Fire. The app synchs with the Blu-ray disc to start exploring the rich and exciting history of Sherlock Holmes. http://bit.ly/JlZkvR

Blu-Ray Special Features:
Continue reading Blu-Ray Review: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows