DVD Reviews 

Under the Skin

by Alan Rapp on July 21, 2014

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: Under the Skin
  • IMDb: link

Under the Skin

The line between a movie being artistic and pretentious is, like beauty, often in the eye of the beholder. Director Jonathan Glazer helms this tale of a beautiful woman (Scarlett Johansson) stalking lonely men in Scotland. Adapted from the novel by Michael Faber, Under the Skin has sharply divided audiences over the issue of style versus substance.

Stripped down to its core, Faber’s story, adapted here by Glazer and Walter Campbell, is incredibly simple leaving very little room for character or plot development. Putting all his eggs in one basket, Glazer uses an over-stylized look to enhance the story that never attempts to ask or answer basic questions about what Johansson’s character, or her equally unnamed biker partner (Jeremy McWilliams), need with the men trapped like mosquitoes in amber in their monochromatic domicile (which must come from Gallifrey as it’s infinitely larger on the inside than the unassuming exterior would have you believe).

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Non-Stop Mediocrity

by Alan Rapp on July 19, 2014

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: Non-Stop
  • IMDb: link

Non-Stop MediocrityNon-Stop is the kind of fast-paced dumb action thriller which Liam Neeson seems to so enjoy making these days. Well-paced, the story about an air marshal aboard a transatlantic flight hijacked by an unknown adversary has all the trademarks of a cliched action thriller including an uber-smart bad guy, protocols which keep putting innocent lives in danger, a down on his luck hero who breaks the rules, the tease of a romantic distraction (Julianne Moore), quick-cut blurry action sequences, plenty of implausible coincidences, consistently dumb choices from pretty much every character, and enough red herrings to feed half a theater full of movie goers.

Trouble begins halfway through the flight when Marshall Bill Marks (Neeson) receives a text message from a hijacker promising to kill a passenger every 20 minutes until he is paid $140 million all while making it appear to both the outside world and the passengers on the plane that Marks is the one responsible for the hijacking.

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1984 – The Last Starfighter

by Alan Rapp on July 17, 2014

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: The Last Starfighter
  • IMDb: link

The Last StarfighterReleased 30 years ago, The Last Starfighter is a classic tale of wish fulfillment when a poor trailer park kid finds himself in a world beyond his wildest imagination. Recruited through the use of a video game, Alex Rogan (Lance Guest) is tapped to join the Star League and defend the frontier against Xur (Norman Snow) and the Ko-Dan armada. After an impromptu space trip courtesy of an unscrupulous recruitment officer (Robert Preston), Alex finds himself in deep space where the world of his video game is played out in front of his eyes.

Alex’s refusal to fight saves him the fate of the rest of the Starfighter recruits who are killed in a sneak attack by Xur’s forces. This leaves Alex alone as the last Starfighter pilot and the only one between Xur’s conquest of the galaxy. Casting Catherine Mary Stewart as the girlfriend back home, having her own misadventures with an android left in his place, and Dan O’Herlihy as Alex’s co-pilot and friend Grig, the movie offers a twist on the basic hero’s journey with humor, drama, some early computer effects (which still look pretty damn good 30 years later), and a love story which will eventually lead Alex back home after finally finding his place in the universe.

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2004 – King Arthur

by Alan Rapp on July 7, 2014

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: King Arthur
  • IMDb: link

King ArthurReleased in 1981, John Boorman‘s Excalibur remains the standard against which every King Arthur film is measured. Setting itself apart, Antoine Fuqua‘s film (released in theaters 10 years ago today) chose to ignore the more mystical and mythological aspects of the King Arthur legend while providing a more grounded version set during the end of the Roman occupation of Britain.

Here Arthur (Clive Owen) is a half-Celtic Roman cavalry officer in charge of a select group of indentured knights: Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd), Tristan (Mads Mikkelsen), Gawain (Joel Edgerton), Galahad (Hugh Dancy), Dragonet (Ray Stevenson), and Bors (Ray Winstone). Rome’s withdrawal should mean the end to their service, but the group is tasked with final mission to rescue an important Roman family from the invading Saxon horde. The result of which will spill the blood of Arthur’s knights, introduce him the Welsh warrior princess Guinevere (Keira Knightley) and her father Merlin (Stephen Dillane) – Arthur sworn enemy, and change the course of his destiny.

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The LEGO Movie

by Alan Rapp on June 28, 2014

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: The LEGO Movie
  • IMDb: link

The LEGO MovieThe LEGO Movie isn’t the first animated feature to be developed after a toy line but it’s hard to imagine someone doing one better. Centered around the misadventures of construction worker Emmet Brickowoski (Chris Pratt) and his new friends who take on the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell), The LEGO Movie is a clever tale that not only delivers one of the most fun movies of the year but leaves the audience with a nice message for both children and their parents.

Filled with some amazing GCI effects crafting a world made entirely of LEGO Bricks which don’t necessarily need 3D to be effective, the movie holds up to multiple viewings. In the true definition of a family film, Emmet’s journey from lifeless drone to the most important character in all of LEGO creation is the kind of story which should play just as well for children and adults. For more on the movie check out my original review.

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2004 – DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story

by Alan Rapp on June 21, 2014

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story
  • IMDb: link

“Nobody makes me bleed my own blood!”

DodgeBall: A True Underdog StoryOn or around this date ten years ago DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story opened in theaters. Centered around a slacker gym owner (Vince Vaughn) and group of likable misfits (Justin Long, Stephen Root, Joel David Moore, Chris Williams, and Alan Tudyk a man who dresses as a modern-day pirate) fighting against a ridiculously over-the-top rival gym owner (Ben Stiller) by entering a dodgeball competition, it’s lightweight fare to be sure but surprisingly one of the more entertaining movies of either Vaughn or Stiller’s careers.

Throwing in Christine Taylor as a love interest for Vaughn, Rip Torn as an insane dodgeball coach, and Gary Cole and Jason Bateman as the tournament’s announcers, and camoes from the likes of David Hasselhoff, William Shatner, Chuck Norris, and Lance Armstrong, writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber‘s first feature delivers its share of memorable scenes and lines which gets the most out of its premise and has aged fairly well over the past decade.

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Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

by Alan Rapp on June 15, 2014

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
  • IMDB: link

Jack Ryan: Shadow RecruitPulled from it’s plumb Christmas Day scheduled release date to be dumped in the middle of the graveyard of January and February, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit came and went without much fanfare. Although pulling in more than $135 million worldwide the movie underachieved based on its original planned release and met with mixed reaction from both critics and fans.

Rebooting the long-dominant Jack Ryan series, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit cast Chris Pine in the role of Jack Ryan. I enjoyed the film, and found it more memorable than either of Harrison Ford‘s offerings or the Ben Affleck 2002 attempt to reboot the franchise.

Bringing in Keira Knightley as Ryan’s girlfriend, Kevin Costner as his CIA mentor, and Kenneth Branagh to do double duty both as the film’s villain and director, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit offers a solid cast for an old school thriller.

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  • Title: Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons
  • IMDB: link

Journey to the West: Conquering the DemonsCo-writers and directors Stephen Chow and Chi-kin Kwok‘s comedic take on one of the four classic novels of Chinese literature stars Zhang Wen as would-be Buddhist demon hunter Tang Sanzang on his road to enlightenment. On the road he meets a far more experienced demon hunter (Qi Shu) who begins to fall for the goofy Sanzang.

Offbeat, humorous, and more than a little uneven, Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons is a bizarre horror-comedy with subplots ranging from a love story to Buddhist enlightenment to the intelligence of using fairy tales to fight monsters. Featuring battles involving pig-monsters and giant fish, the movie features an odd collection of characters in the Monkey King (Bo Huang) and rival bounty hunters with the strength and speed of a tiger (Yu Xing), a giant foot (Chaoli Zhang), and telekinetically-powered swords (Show Luo). More of it works than not, but at times it’s thoroughly engaging and at times it’s just plain weird.

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Graceland – The Complete First Season

by Alan Rapp on June 9, 2014

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: Graceland – Season One
  • wiki: link

Graceland - The Complete First SeasonSet in an undercover beach house in Southern California used by the FBI, DEA, and U.S. Customs, the First Season of Graceland follows the house’s newest member Mike Warren (Aaron Tveit) fresh out of the FBI Academy and installed in Graceland not only to replace an agent (Clayne Crawford) whose cover was blown in the first episode but also to secretly investigate the house’s leader, Paul Briggs (Daniel Sunjata), who Mike’s superiors feel may have turned.

Highlights from the season include Mike getting his first taste of undercover life and meeting Paige (Serinda Swan), Charlie (Vanessa Ferlito) working with a Federale (Vincent Laresca), Mike being hired by Bello (Gbenga Akinnagbe) to train his soldiers, the house helping Lauren (Scottie Thompson) finish her last mission, Mike’s handler (Pedro Pascal) taking matters into his own hands to uncover Briggs’ secrets, the revelation of the true identity of the drug smuggler Odin, and a mission goes horribly wrong for Charlie forcing Briggs to try and hide her rash actions from the house.

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  • Title: Pretty Little Liars – Season Four
  • wiki: link

Pretty Little Liars - The Complete Fourth SeasonYear Four is a tumultuous one for the Liars beginning with the murder of Detective Wilden (Bryce Johnson) and Hanna’s mother (Laura Leighton) being charged with the crime, which isn’t helped by Hanna (Ashley Benson) rash actions at a college party, and ending with the girls learning the truth that Alison DiLaurentis (Sasha Pieterse) is alive and finally getting a few answers.

Relationships are hard on the Liars this years as Spencer (Troian Bellisario) and Toby‘s (Keegan Allen) romance is strained first by her keeping secrets that might help her boyfriend investigate his mother’s death and later by the recurrence of her pill-addiction. Emily‘s (Shay Mitchell) swimming future and scholarship chances will be derailed by a shoulder injury which also begins the first of many problems with Paige (Lindsey Shaw). Hanna will lose Caleb (Tyler Blackburn) to the show’s spin-off. And Aria (Lucy Hale) will dump Jake (Ryan Guzman) and return to Ezra (Ian Harding) which becomes doubly-complicated when the Liars begin to suspect he might be A.

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