DVD Reviews 

  • Title: How to Beat the High Cost of Living
  • IMDb: link

how-to-beat-the-high-cost-of-living-blu-rayReleased in 1980, How to Beat the High Cost of Living starred Susan Saint James, Jane Curtin, and Jessica Lange as an unlikely trio of friends who turn to crime to pay for the high cost of inflation slowly strangling each of their lives when Jane’s (Curtin) husband drains their bank account to run off with his secretary, Louise (Lange) is being sued by her husband (Richard Benjamin) fighting off an IRS audit, and the divorced Jane (Saint James) with a homeless father (Eddie Albert) and three kids is struggling to make ends meet with another baby on the way.

The goofy screenplay by Robert Kaufman involving the three women working to rob a giant glass ball full of money in the local mall during its anniversary sale isn’t exactly high concept, but the three leads, and a supporting cast that includes Benjamin, Albert, Dabney Coleman, and Fred Willard, somehow makes (most of) it work as a guilty pleasure heist flick most memorable for Jane Curtain’s striptease during the middle of the mall robbery.

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The Majestic

by Alan Rapp on March 28, 2015

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: The Majestic
  • IMDb: link

The MajesticI’ve always had a soft spot for director Frank Darabont and screenwriter Michael Sloane‘s sentimental (many would argue overly sentimental) 2001 movie The Majestic. Jim Carrey stars as screenwriter Peter Appleton who while fleeing an appearance in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee during the height of the Red Scare has a car accident and finds himself stumbling into a sleepy small town without his memory and a striking resemblance to one of the town’s missing sons.

Derided by many critics and a commercial failure, the film is a throwback to Frank Capra playing on broad themes of patriotism, small town values, and a duty to stand up for what’s right even in the face of overwhelming odds. Is it schmaltzy and emotionally manipulative? Sure, but (despite its length) it’s also entertaining making great use of its star and supporting cast. The film hangs on Carrey as a man who looses his memory but finds his soul while helping a struggling time rediscover its heart as well.

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Blade Triple Feature

by Alan Rapp on March 24, 2015

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: Blade, Blade II, Blade: Trinity
  • wiki: link

Blade Triple FeatureRe-released in a new three-pack Triple Feature Blu-ray Wesley SnipesBlade trilogy is far from the best comic book movies have to offer. Collecting Blade, Blade II, and Blade: Trinity, the set has one good movie, one mediocre flick, and one so awful it might as well be an Underworld movie. Each comes with its original special features including commentaries for each film and assorted featurettes and trailers.

Snipes is fine as a human/vampire half-breed based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. The first film, other than introducing the world and its core characters, is largely forgettable. Blade II, involving the hero teaming with a group of vampires (most notably Leonor Varela and Ron Perlman) to take on a new deadly version of vampires known as reapers, is the only one that holds up to multiple viewings. As for the horrifically bad third film, introducing Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel as vampire hunters and Dominic Purcell as the most ridiculous version of Dracula ever, the less said the better.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Retreat!

by Alan Rapp on March 20, 2015

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Retreat!
  • wiki: link

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Retreat!Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Retreat! collects the first seven episodes of the show’s Third Season which is most, but not quite all, of Leonardo (Seth Green), Raphael (Sean Astin), Michelangelo (Greg Cipes), and Donatello‘s (Rob Paulsen) time in the country licking their wounds following the Kraang mutation of New York City.

Seth Green takes over the voice of the injured Leonardo with “Into the Woods” whose rehabilitation is one of the major storylines of the set. The Turtles also meet Bigfoot, deal with leftover Kraang tech which takes the appearance of April‘s (Mae Whitman) mother, fight to survive their dreams, and deal with new mutants including mutant frogs, Casey’s car, and the bizarre Chimera. The episodes aren’t without charm (such as the introduction of Crognard the Barbarian) but they’re among the weakest of the series lacking any of the trademark villains. I also find it quite odd that “Vision Quest” (the last episode of the arc) isn’t part of this collection. The single-disc DVD does include short featurettes for each of the episodes included.

[Nickelodeon, $14.98]

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2005 – The Upside of Anger

by Alan Rapp on March 19, 2015

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: The Upside of Anger
  • IMDb: link

The Upside of AngerReleased ten years ago, writer/director Mike Binder‘s The Upside of Anger is an underrated film built around a terrific performance by Joan Allen as the pissed-off matriarch of a family struggling to keep it together after her husband has disappeared (presumably to live with his secretary in Sweden). The woman’s life is further complicated by varying states of disrepair of her relationships with her three daughters (Erika Christensen, Keri Russell, Alicia Witt, and Evan Rachel Wood) and a burgeoning romantic relationship to a former Major League pitcher turned radio host (Kevin Costner) who, despite the woman’s rough edges, quickly falls for Terry and her family.

Along with Allen’s performance (arguably the best of her career as the unlikable but somehow still lovable Terry) the film gives each of the daughters strong roles dealing in their own ways with their mother’s constantly boiling disposition. Russell, Christensen, and Witt each bring something different to their roles as Evan Rachel Wood shines as the youngest sibling who is forced to grow up too quickly due to her father’s abscence and mother’s consequent behavior.

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The Interview

by Alan Rapp on March 14, 2015

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: The Interview
  • IMDb: link

The InterviewThe Interview is known mostly for North Korean pressure stopping its wide release in theaters. The controversy that followed brought attention to a throwaway cheap-laugh comedy that would have otherwise been quickly forgotten. The script by Dan Sterling is part Spies Like Us and part Saturday Night Live skit as the star (James Franco) and producer (Seth Rogen) of a talk show get an inclusive interview with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (Randall Park). The pair are quickly approached by the CIA who attempt to use the opportunity to kill Kim by turning a pair of complete morons into assassins without proper training or back-up.

Franco and Rogen are funny guys but they’re just going through the motions of various gags (including a surprisingly bloody action sequence). In someone else’s hands the premise might have led to a subversive satire but its clear Rogen and company only care about stuffing the film with as many cheap laughs as possible with the Franco-Rogen bromance in full swing complete with several dick jokes and multiple discussions of hiding spy gear up Rogen’s ass.

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Justice League vs. Bizarro League

by Alan Rapp on February 27, 2015

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League vs. Bizarro League
  • wiki: link

Justice League vs. Bizarro LeagueA LEGO Justice League movie? Okay, you’ve got my attention. The only real negative to LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League vs. Bizarro League is its length. Clocking in around 45-minutes it’s a stretch to say you’re getting your moneys worth with this new LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes “movie.” That doesn’t mean there isn’t an awful lot of fun to be had for fans of LEGO and DC Comics.

The plot takes place after the events of Batman Be-Leaguered (also included here as a nice extra) as a distrustful Batman (Troy Baker) has joined the Justice League which now faces a new threat with the return of Bizarro (Nolan North) who creates Bizarro duplicates of the other members of the Justice League to help him save the lifeless odd square-shaped planet which Darkseid (Tony Todd) has taken an interest in because of the powerful crystals Superman (North) has convinced Bizarro are helpless citizens he needs to protect.

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Atlantis – Season Two Part One

by Alan Rapp on February 26, 2015

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: Atlantis – Season Two
  • wiki: link

Atlantis - Season Two Part OneAvailable on both Blu-ray and DVD, the two-disc set collects the first-half of Atlantis‘ Second Season continuing the heroic misadventures of Jason (Jack Donnelly), Pythagoras (Robert Emms), and Hercules (Mark Addy) featuring the two-part season premiere of Ariadne (Aiysha Hart) assuming the throne, the introduction of a dangerous new suitor to the Queen in the conniving Prince Telemon (Clive Standen), and the Queen’s party attacked on the road by Pasiphae‘s (Sarah Parish) forces and forced to take shelter in a tomb where the dead rise in the season finale which will turn Medea (Amy Manson) from possible friend of Jason to mortal enemy heading into the season’s remaining seven episodes.

The two disc set includes all six episodes of the season which have aired (the remaining seven may or may not air as the show has not been renewed for a Third Season) but does not include any extra features.

[BBC, Blu-ray $24.98 / DVD $19.98]

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John Wick

by Alan Rapp on February 23, 2015

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: John Wick
  • IMDb: link

John WickJohn Wick is the type of old school throwback that makes me think of the early action flicks of Steven Seagal and Arnold Schwarzenegger. With a threadbare plot and the loose message of be careful who you fuck with, Keanu Reeves stars in the title role as a legendary killer brought out of retirement by the son (Alfie Allen) of a local gangster who, only days after the passing of Wick’s wife, kills the man’s dog and steals his vintage sports car. Needless to say the punk didn’t realize who he was messing with.

A typical revenge story, John Wick gives Reeves the opportunity to kill many, many people (including an impressive number of victims shot in the head). The film is populated with amusing small roles such as Willem Dafoe and Adrianne Palicki as other hitmen and Ian McShane as the proprietor of a hotel who caters specifically to those in Wick’s line of business, but what you’re really paying for is the nonstop action and high body count. And that the film delivers.

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  • Title: Once Bitten / Love at First Bite
  • IMDb: link
  • IMDb: link

Once Bitten / Love at First BiteSometimes studio released dual-packs are an odd mixture of movies thrown together. That’s not the case with Scream Factory’s new Double Feature of insane vampire parodies from the late 70s and mid-80s. Once Bitten stars a young Jim Carrey as a sweet high school virgin seduced by a mysterious older woman (Lauren Hutton) who just happens to be a vampire in need of his blood to continue her immortality. Mark’s increasingly odd behavior doesn’t going unnoticed by his equally chaste high school girlfriend (Karen Kopins) who, in true sex comedy fashion, will discover the perfect solution to saving Mark’s soul.

Love at First Bite is arguably even more ridiculous starring the world’s tannest man George Hamilton as Count Dracula who attempts to fit into New York City while stalking a fashion model (Susan Saint James) he belives to be the reincarnation of his great love and being perused by a descendant of the world’s greatest vampire hunter (Dick Shawn).

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