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Mildred Pierce – The Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)

mildred pierceMichael Curtiz, the acclaimed journeyman director of films such as Casablanca, The Adventures of Robin Hood and Yankee Doodle Dandy, finally finds one of his films as a part of The Criterion Collection with Mildred Pierce. An ambitious mix of film noir and melodrama, this acclaimed 1945 film marked a career comeback for Joan Crawford, who would go on to win a Best Actress Academy Award. Based on the hardboiled James M. Cain novel, the film is now heralded as a classic for its handling of Crawford’s character, the strong casting choices, blend of domestic drama with murder mystery and many other elements. Now everyone can dive into this Criterion Blu-ray release and revisit this story of maternal sacrifice.

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Monster Brawl At ‘The Great Wall’ (Movie Review)

the great wall thumbI remember reading about The Great Wall over a year ago when I put together my list of most anticipated films for 2016. The concept of dropping Matt Damon and Andy Lau, among others, into a Zhang Yimou (Hero) film about soldiers fighting off monsters at the Great Wall of China sounded pretty amazing. The concept is inherently goofy, but the film would no doubt look amazing. It turns out I was right. While not all that deep from a story level, The Great Wall has plenty of visual delights and enough consciously silly choices to make this Chinese production feel like a near parody of similar Hollywood fair, despite mostly playing it straight. The result is a colorful monster movie with little depth.

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GHOST WORLD, OTHELLO and More Coming to The Criterion Collection in May 2017

GHOST WORLDThis May, Criterion will present a special edition of Orson Welles’s Othello, featuring two different versions of this visually astonishing Shakespeare adaptation as well as a host of special features chronicling its tumultuous production. Our second World Cinema Project collector’s set will feature restorations of hard-to-see classics from the Philippines (Insiang), Thailand (Mysterious Object at Noon), Soviet Kazakhstan (Revenge), Brazil (Limite), Turkey (Law of the Border), and Taiwan (Taipei Story), along with introductions by Martin Scorsese and interviews with renowned film figures including Hou Hsiao-hsien, Pierre Rissient, and Walter Salles. For the title character of Dheepan and his makeshift family, the flight from war-torn Sri Lanka to the banlieues of Paris is just the beginning of a dramatic, genre-bending story brought viscerally to life in Jacques Audiard’s 2015 Palme d’Or winner. Yasujiro Ozu’s wistfully comic Good Morning presents a gentler portrait of family life in postwar Japan, reworking the scenario of his silent classic I Was Born, But . . ., also included in this release. Bringing it all back home, our edition of Terry Zwigoff’s Ghost World – a cult favorite sketching the coming-of-age foibles of two sardonic teens (Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson) against a backdrop of all-American kitsch – features new interviews with the cast. Plus: a Blu-ray upgrade of Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 BruxellesChantal Akerman’s revolutionary study of a woman’s work.

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Denzel Washington Stars, Produced and Directs FENCES, Arriving on Blu-ray this March

91EkEcJKpOL._SL1500_Academy Award® winner* Denzel Washington directs and stars in the powerful and moving drama FENCES, arriving on  Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand March 14, 2017 from Paramount Home Media Distribution.  The film arrives on Digital HD February 24, two days before the 2017 Academy Awards ceremony.  Adapted by legendary writer August Wilson from his own renowned play, FENCES follows former Negro-league baseball player Troy Maxson (Washington) in 1950s Pittsburgh as he fights to provide for those he loves in a world that threatens to push him down. An unforgettable and timeless masterpiece, FENCES “connects with people on a deep, emotional level” (Glenn Whipp, Los Angeles Times) and pulses with the universal truths of love and forgiveness, despite what lies beyond your own fence.

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The ‘Cure For Wellness’ Is A Big-Budget Oddity (Movie Review)

14666136_1781522025469221_4695802242382694244_nI would like to propose something.  Many will argue how A Cure for Wellness has few tricks up its sleeves that audiences have not seen before. What if director Gore Verbinski knows that as well? Fitting in the same league as gorgeously designed, but narratively challenged films such as Shutter Island and Crimson Peak, A Cure for Wellness plays like a film where the destination is perhaps clear, but the journey is so cinematically interesting. Like those other films, it may be overlong and overstuffed, but the fact that a major studio funded such an odd project feels like a triumph for film in general. It doesn’t hurt to note just how disturbing some of the visuals are, which does play well to the genre fans looking for strange jolts.

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The Oscar-Nominated LION Comes Home To Blu-ray This March

lion blu-ray coverLION follows five-year-old Saroo who gets lost on a train traveling away from his home and family. Time passes, but this journey takes an emotional turn for Saroo as an adult. Garth Davis’ directorial film debut garnered six Academy Award® nominations including Best Picture. The film features an astounding cast with Best Supporting Actor nominee Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire), Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), David Wenham (300), Best Supporting Actress nominee Nicole Kidman (Academy Award® winner for The Hours) and newcomers Abhishek Bharate and Sunny Pawar. The journey begins for audiences everywhere when Anchor Bay Entertainment and The Weinstein Company release the critically acclaimed LION on Blu-ray™, DVD and On Demand March 21, 2017 and on Digital HD March 7, 2017.

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‘John Wick’ Reloaded (Movie Review)

john wick posterA good thing happened back in 2014. Not only did the assassin world learn John Wick was back, but audiences found out Keanu Reeves was back as well. While not exactly slumming (Reeves has starred, produced and directed many films over the last decade alone), John Wick became the first notable action film for the former Matrix star in a while. Solid reviews and good word-of-mouth turned that film from stuntmen-turned-directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch into a modest hit. That was enough to give audiences John Wick: Chapter 2, a film that delves further into the colorful world of assassins introduced in the first film, with a whole lot of crazy action that delivers stylish, violent fun.

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The Question Every Father Has Asked: Why Him? Is Answered on March 28, Available on 4KUHD, Blu-ray and DVD

unnamedComing to Blu-ray and 4K UHD is Why Him? Bryan Cranston and James Franco fight the ultimate battle of wits and wills in this outrageous, no-holds-barred comedy from filmmaker John Hamburg (I Love you Man, Along Came Polly, Meet the Parents, and Zoolander). Ned (Bryan Cranston), an overprotective but loving dad, and his family visit his daughter at college, where he meets his biggest nightmare: her well-meaning but socially awkward Silicon Valley billionaire boyfriend, Laird (James Franco). A rivalry develops, and Ned’s panic level goes through the roof when he finds himself lost in this glamorous high-tech world and learns that Laird is about to pop the question. Learn more about this upcoming release, which will be available on March 28.

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‘The LEGO Batman Movie’ Features The Miniature Hero We Deserve (Movie Review)

lego batman movie thumbIn another world, it would not be too surprising to say this latest cinematic Batman adventure is a homerun. However, given how troubling things have been for the Dark Knight just last year, I am even happier to say just how enjoyable The LEGO Batman Movie really is. Given how awesome and surprisingly insightful 2014’s The LEGO Movie managed to be, I could point to how this spin-off is a bit of a downgrade as far as what it really accomplishes. At the same time though, this is a film that has a surprising amount of depth as far as examining the Bruce Wayne/Batman persona. The film is also a laugh-a-minute joke fest, with tons of clever references and visual joy to entertain anyone looking to have some colorful fun in the DC universe via LEGOs.

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Loving (Blu-ray Review)

loving coverWith Loving there comes a certain expectation that writer/director Jeff Nichols is not out to provide. The historical drama surrounds an event that led to the invalidation of state laws prohibiting interracial marriage. This seems like the typical kind of film to automatically receive awards consideration. Regardless of if it does or doesn’t, Nichols is not that kind of filmmaker. Following Take Shelter, Mud and Midnight Special, there is a definite low-key style to how he approaches his films, regardless of genre, and that once again applies to Loving, which does little to sensationalize a story that actually led to a change in constitutional law. While only up for a Best Actress Oscar, the film has certainly received its share of accolades and can now be found on Blu-ray.

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I Lost Contact With ‘The Space Between Us’ (Movie Review)

the space between us thumbGiven the successful (non-superhero or animated) movies that have come out over the past few years, it would seem audiences have a thing for space-based adventures and romantic dramas. The Space Between Us combines these ideas into one film, which fits well for distributor STX Entertainment. This is the studio that has tried to match high concepts with moderate budgets, making The Space Between Us (a co-production with H. Brothers pictures, originally acquired from Relativity Media) something of an ambitious venture. Still, while the science of putting a film like this together is sound, the results are a little less than stellar.

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‘Gold’ Finder (Movie Review)

gold thumbBy the end of Gold, I was more concerned with star Matthew McConaughey’s choice to invest himself into the character of Kenny Wells than the story I was just told. Given how the film is loosely based on the Bre-X mining scandal from 1993, seeing McConaughey develop a gut and shave his head to create a balding effect was puzzling. Did this amount of effort ultimately make the character (who has a physical resemblance to no real life figure) more interesting thematically? I did not really think so, which speaks more to how unremarkable this film felt as a whole.

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MOONLIGHT Comes To Blu-ray This February

unnamed (2)The Oscar®-nominated, mesmerizing, and heartbreakingly beautiful film, Moonlight, arrives on Blu-ray (plus Digital HD) and DVD February 28 from Lionsgate. The unforgettable drama, lauded by critics and audiences alike, is nominated for eight Academy Awards®, including Best Picture, Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Mahershala Ali), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Naomie Harris), Best Director, Best Original Score, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and Best Editing. Written and directed by Barry Jenkins and based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s autobiographical play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, the film chronicles the life of Chiron, a boy growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami, Florida. At once a vital portrait of contemporary African American life and an intensely personal and poetic meditation on identity, family, friendship, and love, Moonlight is a groundbreaking piece of cinema that reverberates with deep compassion and universal truths.

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Lost In London: A Comedic Odyssey Matched With Experimentation

woodyOn January 19th, I was able to attend the screening of the first film to be shot live and broadcast simultaneously into theaters in England and the U.S. While one would expect an experience like this to be the brain child of some indie filmmaker making his name, a new, unexpected Cloverfield movie, or some found footage experience coming out of Blumhouse Productions, it actually came from the mind of Woody Harrelson. Lost in London is the result of an idea Harrelson had for a film, following an actual experience he had in London back in 2002. As the film opens, we are told “too much of this is true” and are then off and running on a unique odyssey shot in one take, with one camera.

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‘xXx’: Reports Of Xander Cage’s Death Were Greatly Exaggerated (Movie Review)

xXx_UKQuadThere is a point in xXx: Return of Xander Cage where Vin Diesel starts wearing a giant fur coat, as if to suggest this 49-year old skater/adrenaline junkie/tattoo harvester/former spy was not cool enough for audiences already.  The coat is not a huge part of the film (and thinking about it now, I’m curious if it is possible for it to even come back for a sequel), but it represents the utter ridiculousness that is this movie. With that in mind, this is also a film that embraces its ridiculousness. With all the action films that treat themselves so seriously or provide cool thrills at the expense of groups that continue to be vilified, here’s a cartoon-come-to-life that mixes bro moments with diverse fun.

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‘The Founder’ Has A Well Done Screenplay Served With Undercooked Direction (Movie Review)

the founder thumbThe story behind McDonald’s is almost as fascinating as the world’s obsession with the McRib. The Founder is a straightforward attempt to tell that story (of the history, not the pork sandwich), with a focus on Ray Kroc, the man who turned McDonald’s into what it would come be today, for better or worse. Given what took place, the topic is ripe for a solid film, but despite a screenplay full of ideas and potential to morph into something cinematically great, the film feels undercut by fairly standard direction that takes less of a bite into the material than the customers do into their Big Macs.

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UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG, RUMBLE FISH and More Coming to The Criterion Collection in April 2017

rumble fishThis April, Criterion is serving up a special edition of Tampopo, Juzo Itami’s delirious, genre-bending “ramen western,” fresh from its theatrical run. The kitchen becomes a battleground in Woman of the Year, where Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy play journalist spouses with different ideas about what makes for a successful marriage. There’s also Francis Ford Coppola’s feverish “art film for teenagers,” Rumble Fish, whose stunning black-and-white cinematography weaves expressionistic shadows around an all-star cast, including Matt Dillon, Mickey Rourke, Diane Lane, and Dennis Hopper. Another unforgettable ensemble is the title act of Buena Vista Social Club, Wim Wenders’ exuberant portrait of the performers who made Cuban music an international sensation. And for an encore: Jacques Demy’s color-drenched musicals The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (a big inspiration for current awards favorite La La Land) and The Young Girls of Rochefort step into the spotlight, in new stand-alone editions.

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TRESPASS AGAINST US Arrives On Blu-ray This March

TrespassAgainstUs_bd_3DAcademy Award® nominee Michael Fassbender (Best Actor, Steve Jobs, 2015) and Golden Globe® nominee Brendan Gleeson (In Bruges) star in the riveting action-filled crime thriller Trespass Against Us on Blu-ray (plus Digital HD) and DVD March 7 from Lionsgate. Premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival, the movie examines the tension between family loyalty and personal salvation. Theatrically released by A24, the film features an original score by the Grammy® Award-winning Chemical Brothers. The Trespass Against Us Blu-ray has plenty look into. Continue on to learn more.

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