DVD Reviews 

Rio 2

by Alan Rapp on August 16, 2014

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: Rio 2
  • IMDb: link

Rio 22011’s Rio was a colorful (if mostly by the numbers) film featuring a domesticated Spix Macaw (Jesse Eisenberg) who finds himself stuck in the wider world in your basic fish (or in this case bird) out of water storyline. The sequel doesn’t stray far from the original as Blu (Eisenberg) once again is put in uncomfortable new surroundings only to eventually prove he has what it takes to survive and thrive.

After the discovery of other Macaws, Blu and Jewel (Anne Hathaway) head into the Amazon with their children (Rachel Crow, Amandla Stenberg, Pierce Gagnon) where Blu finds it increasingly hard to fit in (and that’s before meeting Jewel’s disapproving father). Once again the movie gives us both human and bird enemies, unnecessarily returning Jemaine Clement as the vengeance-obsessed Nigel, along with the supporting cast of the first film and a few new faces (most notably Kristin Chenoweth as a poisonous tree frog) as well.

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The Blacklist – The Complete First Season

by Alan Rapp on August 15, 2014

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: The Blacklist – Season One
  • wiki: link

The Blacklist - The Complete First SeasonWhen the FBI’s most wanted turns himself over to authorities and agrees to help them catch infamous villains (many of whom the government isn’t even aware of) the life of Agent Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) changes in a flash as she finds herself in a world of secrets, half-truths, and lies concerning all aspects of Raymond Reddington (James Spader) and why the master criminal chose her as his liason to the FBI.

The set collects all 22 episodes of the show’s First Season in which Reddington leads the team (Harry Lennix, Diego Klattenhoff, Parminder Nagra, Hisham Tawfiq) to take down a member of The Blacklist every week while Lizzie deals with ugly truths in her own life which Reddington’s prescence brings to light – including the truth of her husband Tom (Ryan Eggold). The uneven First Season is a bit too secretive for its own good (much like Red), but does produces some strong episodes.

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Divergent

by Alan Rapp on August 12, 2014

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: Divergent
  • IMDb: link

DivergentBased on the young adult novel by Veronica Roth, Divergent cashes in on several of the same themes that made The Hunger Games a box office success. Casting Shailene Woodley as Tris, the plucky young heroine in a dystopian future, the movie follows a similar formula of class warfare and child warriors.

In a world where people are grouped into five castes, each centered around a specific ideal, Tris reaches the age of choosing in which she decides to forgo a life of servitude to become a warrior. Her choice is heavily influenced by the fact that Tris, unlike the vast majority of the population, has a genetic code that doesn’t fit neatly into any one of the particular factions.

Hiding her divergence from both friends and enemies, Tris trains to become a member of Dauntless, but to succeed in becoming a full member of the faction she’ll have face the truth about herself and keep anyone else from learning her secret.

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  • Title: House of Cards – Season Two
  • wiki: link

House of Cards - The Complete Second SeasonBookended by the deaths of major characters in both the season opener and the season finale, the Second Season of Netflix’s House of Cards continues the devious machinations of former House Whip turned Vice President of the United States Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) whose quest for power has not been satiated now that he has found himself one step away from the most powerful office in the land.

The main conflict of the season comes from Frank’s repeated attempts to drive a wedge between President Walker (Michael Gill) and his trusted advisor billionaire Raymond Tusk (Gerald McRaney) while continuing to move chess pieces around the board including backing the upstart Jackie Sharp (Molly Parker) to fill his old role in the House and play a dangerous game putting the U.S. economy and its trade status with China in serious jeopardy. Once completed, Frank must deal with the fallout of the situation including weathering the President’s disfavor.

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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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