DVD Reviews 

Life is not a malfunction

by Alan Rapp on January 4, 2015

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: Short Circuit
  • IMDb: link

“Number 5 is alive!”

Short CircuitRecently re-released on Blu-ray and DVD, 1986’s Short Circuit starred Police Academy star Steve Guttenberg as a scientist whose robotic invention became sentient after being struck by lightning. After wandering off the military base Number 5 (Tim Blaney) would eventually find his way to Stephanie Speck (Ally Sheedy) who befriends the machine and begins feeding its insatiable appetite about life and information.

I’ll admit to loving the movie as a kid and still having a soft spot for it (but not its sequel) years later. More likely to appeal to kids than parents, Short Circuit is memorable for a number of reasons including the robot itself (obviously the template years later for Wall-e), some very quotable lines (“Malfunction. Need input.”, “Nun soup?”), and the bizarre (and kinda racist) choice to have Fisher Stevens play an Indian scientist. It’s not a great film by any means, but it’s held up pretty well over the years and continues to offer fun family entertainment that does discuss the nature of life and debate whether or not a machine such as Number 5 could ever truly be alive.

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Quantum Leap – The Complete Series

by Alan Rapp on January 3, 2015

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: Quantum Leap
  • wiki: link

Quantum Leap - The Complete SeriesTo prove his experiment worked quantum physicist Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) “stepped into the Quantum Leap Accelerator and vanished.” Premiering back in 1989, Quantum Leap ran for five seasons placing Bakula at different time periods as he would “leap” into someone whose timeline needed a quick fix. Although audiences saw only Sam (except in an occasional reflection) those around him continued to see the individual into whose body Sam leapt into that week (who occasionally would turn out to be a woman). Stuck with a swiss-cheesed memory as a side-effect of the experiment, Sam would rely on the help of Al Calavicci (Dean Stockwell) who, from the future, would lock onto Sam’s latest leap and, appearing as a hologram only Sam could see and hear, provide him with the information needed that week.

Collecting all 97 episodes on 27 discs, the Complete Collection offers fans of the show the entire five-year run in a single set. Sadly you won’t find any added extra features as the set only includes the previously released season sets packaged together for the first time.

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Continuum – The Complete Third Season

by Alan Rapp on December 30, 2014

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: Continuum – Season Three
  • wiki: link

Continuum - The Complete Third SeasonThe Third Season of Continuum is a promise fulfilled as the show’s central character finally begins to question the role in which she’s been assigned to track down terrorists from the future who hope to remake the world into something more than the corporate oligarchy where she comes from. Alliances would change, friendships would be destroyed, two Alec Sadlers (Erik Knudsen) fight for control of futuristic technologies, and Kiera Cameron‘s (Rachel Nichols) belief in her mission would eventually be shaken to its core.

Highlights of the season include Kiera turning on the Freelancers, an episode set in her past involving Kiera tracking down Kagame (Tony Amendola) and Liber8, the season finale which sets up an entire new set of problems for our heroine, the reveal of the true identity of Kiera’s new friend (Ryan Robbins), Dillon (Brian Markinson) choosing to use his daughter to infiltrate Liber8, the death of a major supporting character, and Kiera choosing which Alec to betray.

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Boyhood

by Alan Rapp on December 29, 2014

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: Boyhood
  • IMDb: link

BoyhoodShot over the course of 12 years, Boyhood is one of the most ambitious projects any filmmaker has attempted to tackle. It’s also easily one of the best films of the year.

Starting the project at age 5 we witness Ellar Coltrane grow-up as Mason over the filming of Richard Linklater‘s latest film which began production in 2002 and finally arrived in theaters in 2014. Over its 165-minute running time Mason’s scripted tale delves into his relationships with both his divorced parents (Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke), the complexities of modern-day extended families, and the journey of Mason from grade school to college.

Begun without a finished script, but with an established beginning and ending, Linklater adapted the story by the changes he saw in his cast over the years. Arquette and Hawke carry much of the early scenes of the movie while Coltrane takes over a larger part of the story as he grows as an actor.

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Obvious Child

by Alan Rapp on December 24, 2014

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: Obvious Child
  • IMDb: link

“I think a lot of people learned a lot about the Holocaust tonight.”

Obvious ChildWritten and directed by Gillian Robespierre, Obvious Child is the harsh look at modern life and romantic relationships that the more ballyhooed Enough Said never had the balls to be (choosing instead to fall back on basic romcom clichés). Jenny Slate stars as a struggling stand-up comedian whose recent break-up leads to a drunken hook-up with a man (Paul Briganti) she barely knows. Despite having the best night she can remember (even if she can only remember tiny pieces of it) the shamed Donna attempts to move on which becomes more difficult when she discovers she’s pregnant weeks later.

What could easily have been made in an unwatchable Hollywood tripe, Robespierre steers clear of the pitfalls of the genre focusing almost entirely on Donna and her friends and family, keeping the romantic possibilities on the back burner. The movie is about Donna’s reaction to a pivotal moment in her life not an excuse for pratfalls and over-the-top romantic gestures.

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Young Justice: Invasion

by Alan Rapp on December 22, 2014

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: Young Justice: Invasion
  • wiki: link

Young Justice: InvasionSet five years after the show’s First Season, the Second Season of Young Justice introduced older versions of the original show’s characters while expanding the team with a new set of young heroes as well. Invasion‘s overall arc involves the behind-the-scenes manipulations of The Light as well as the arrival of The Reach on Earth whose true purposes are far more nefarious than the aliens let on.

With Dick Grayson moving onto the role of Nightwing (Jesse McCartney) the team gets a new Robin (Cameron Bowen) along with Batgirl (Alyson Stoner), Wonder Girl (Mae Whitman), and Impulse (Jason Marsden) all becoming a part of the team. Aqualad (Khary Payton) and Artemis (Stephanie Lemelin) will both spend a large portion of the season undercover with The Light, the truth about Red Arrow & Arsenal will be discovered, and another founding member of the team will give his life to save the world from The Reach in the series finale.

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The Skeleton Twins

by Alan Rapp on December 21, 2014

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: The Skeleton Twins
  • IMDb: link

The Skeleton TwinsWritten and directed by Craig Johnson and Mark Heyman The Skeleton Twins, is a holiday release staple of a awkward family dramedy starring Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader as estranged twins who both contemplate suicide on the same day.

Brought back together after Milo’s unsuccessful suicide attempt, Maggie and Milo get to know each other again after being apart for nearly an entire decade as Milo struggles to fit into Maggie’s life with her optimistic go-getter husband (Luke Wilson) while discovering his sister’s life is just as fucked-up as his own as she continually cheats on the man she professes to love while hiding the fact that she’s still on birth control as they try to get pregnant.

Neither as dramatic nor humorous as you might first assume given the subject matter and its two former Saturday Night Live stars, splitting the difference The Skeleton Twins mixes in some dark humor to balance out the siblings’ poor life choices which lead them both to consider taking their own lives.

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Snowpiercer

by Alan Rapp on December 3, 2014

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: Snowpiercer
  • IMDb: link

SnowpiercerI had a very mixed reaction to writer/director Joon-ho Bong‘s Snowpiercer. One one-hand I’m increasingly tired dramas using the trappings of sci-fi to offer up dystopian futures and thinly-veiled class struggle that offer no message other than the fact that such inequality is wrong and ultimately disastrous to the human species. My rebelling against the form isn’t really Snowpiercer‘s fault other than the fact it adds to the glut of similarly-themed films in recent years. On the other hand the film certainly embraces the literal interpretation of rising above your class to offer a bizarre struggle of less fortunate train passengers attempting to climb their way upward.

At its worst Snowpiercer feels preachy and overreaching in its visual style presenting each train car as a bizarely impossible worlds for the voyagers to walk through. It’s also not well served by a performance so over-the-top by Tilda Swinton it’s amazing she doesn’t hit her head on the roof in every scene. At its best the film does serve its message and offer Chris Evans a role as a would-be hero forced to face the deficiencies in both himself and the world he hopes to make more equitable through his struggle.

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A Most Wanted Man

by Alan Rapp on December 2, 2014

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: A Most Wanted Man
  • IMDb: link

A Most Wanted ManNotable for being the final non-Hunger Games role of Philip Seymour Hoffman, A Most Wanted Man is a slow-burning espionage thriller involving a secret German anti-terrorism unit tracking a potential suspect (Grigoriy Dobrygin). Although it’s based on the work of the same author, sadly, it’s not Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (which surprisingly moves at a far better pace than A Wanted Man).

The main takeaway from the film is how little actually happens in surveillance and much of what we do see (including a flailing romantic subplot) isn’t always that interesting. The cast is well chosen, and Hoffman leads a group of talented actors (Robin Wright, Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe) each providing strong performances, but the movie lacks the will or motivation to put them to better use than we see here. It’s certainly not a bad film by any means, and is certainly worth viewing for the performances alone, but the end result is less than the sum of its parts.

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How to Train Your Dragon 2

by Alan Rapp on November 15, 2014

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: How to Train Your Dragon 2
  • IMDb: link

How to Train Your Dragon 2Set a few years after the events of the first film, How to Train Your Dragon 2 continues the hero’s journey of Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Toothless and the rest of the dragon riders of Birk as Hiccup finds his long-lost mother Valka (Cate Blanchett) and squares off against a dragon army led by the villainous Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou).

How to Train Your Dragon 2 works as well for me on Blu-ray as it did in theaters (and some of the emotional beats even work better a second time). Given the quality of the first two films, I hope we see this series continue for a long time. For more on the movie, check out my original review.

The Blu-ray includes DVD and UV digital copies of the film along with a half-hour short explaining the creation of Birk’s dragon races, deleted scenes, trailers, and short featurettes on Hiccup’s inventions, Drago’s weapons, the various dragons in the film, and Birk.

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