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‘Free Fire’, The Shoot Out Spectacular, Arrives On Blu-ray This July

The bold action thriller, Free Fire, arrives on Blu-ray™ (plus Digital HD) and DVD July 18 from Lionsgate. Winner of the People’s Choice Award for MidnightMadness at the Toronto International Film Festival, Free Fire is executive produced by Oscar®-winning director Martin Scorsese (Best Director, The Departed, 2006) and is directed and co-written by acclaimed filmmaker Ben Wheatley (High Rise, Kill List). The film, “a cult classic in the making” (The Film Stage) features an all-star cast including Sharlto Copley (District 9), Armie Hammer (The Social Network), Oscar® winner Brie Larson (Best Actress, Room, 2015), Golden Globe® nominee Cillian Murphy (Best Actor – Musical or Comedy, Breakfast on Pluto, 2006), and Jack Reynor (Sing Street). Continue on to learn more about this shootout spectacular.

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Cruise Mummy Into Universal Pictures’ Dark Universe Announcement

We are just a few weeks away from the release of The Mummy (AKA Cruise Mummy), starring Tom Cruise and serving as the introduction to the newly dubbed “Dark Universe“. Yes, this press release from Universal Studios highlights the idea of using this upcoming (potential) blockbuster as the starting point of a new cinematic universe that updates all of Universal’s classic Monsters. Complete with a logo, theme by Danny Elfman and casting/director announcements that includes Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem and Bill Condon, read on to learn more about what Universal has in store for this franchise.

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Travel Down The River To THE LOST CITY OF Z, Debuting On Blu-ray This July

Coming to Blu-ray and DVD July 11, Charlie Hunnam (“Sons of Anarchy”), Robert Pattinson (Twilight franchise), Sienna Miller (Factory Girl), and Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Homecoming) star in Amazon Studio’s THE LOST CITY OF Z, the incredible true story of British explorer Percy Fawcett. Certified “Fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes, the film centers on Fawcett (Hunnam), who disappeared in the Amazon while searching for a mysterious city. An epically scaled tale of courage and passion told in Writer/Director James Gray’s (We Own the Night) classic filmmaking style, THE LOST CITY OF Z is a stirring tribute to the exploratory spirit and a conflicted adventurer driven to the verge of obsession.

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Get Out (Blu-ray Review)

Those familiar with the work of Jordan Peele (of Comedy Central’s Key & Peele) may not be too surprised by the effectiveness of his horror debut Get Out. His television series juggled laughs with socially conscious material and cinematic flair, no different than how effective horror films mask their deeper and relevant social themes with scares and style. Dubbed by Peele as a social thriller, this latest Blumhouse Production mines plenty of familiar ideas and areas for creepiness, uncomfortable scenarios, frights and comedy. As a result, Get Out became a huge hit early this year, with rave reviews and a huge box office total that easily outshines its low budget.

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Sid & Nancy, Hopscotch and More Coming to The Criterion Collection in August 2017

In August, Criterion will take you into uncharted waters with the Hollywood master Michael Curtiz’s unsung classic The Breaking Point – a white-knuckle Hemingway adaptation starring John Garfield and Patricia Neal – on Blu-ray for the first time. The films of Sacha Guitry have long been celebrated in France, including the late-career black comedy La poison, the writer/director’s first collaboration with wildly expressive performer Michel Simon, making its home video debut. Mike Leigh’s Meantime, appearing in a new 2K restoration, was a revelation in 1984, exposing filmgoers to the character-based social realism Leigh had honed working in British theater and television, as well as to two young actors whose electrifying performances heralded incredible careers: Tim Roth and Gary Oldman. The latter was soon to co-star alongside Chloe Webb in Sid & Nancy, Alex Cox’s crash-and-burn punk romance, which we’ll present in a new 4K digital restoration. Finally, Walter Matthau exudes wily charm in the lovable cat-and-mouse spy comedy Hopscotch, on Blu-ray in a new 2K digital restoration.

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Heat – Director’s Definitive Edition (Blu-ray Review)

In the Fall of 2016, I was able to attend a screening of Heat at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which boasted a brand new 4K restoration of the film, supervised by writer/director Michael Mann. Not that I needed a reminder of how great Mann’s Los Angeles crime saga is, but I was intrigued to see this 90s classic on the big screen, with a better than ever video and audio presentation. Now, this definitive edition of the crime epic has found its way to Blu-ray, along with the Q&A from that screening (which was moderated by Christopher Nolan), and more extras for any fan to enjoy. Not bad for this spectacular cops and robbers movie featuring two of cinema’s greatest actors.

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‘Alien: Covenant’ Presents A New Ship But A Familiar Story (Movie Review)

Director Ridley Scott is 79-years old and excited to keep making Alien movies. He first jumped back into the universe he helped create with 2012’s Prometheus. While I was among those who embraced the mix of intriguing (and sometimes puzzling) ideas and technical wizardry, the film certainly received mixed reactions overall. Prequels always tend to be tricky business, regardless of certain ambitions. Alien: Covenant seems to have wanted to rectify the problem by providing a continuation of the story that began in Prometheus and adding many of the greatest hits found in Alien and other entries in the franchise. The result makes for an overall entertaining experience, but I miss the big ideas floating around with the previously doomed crew.

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A Ritchie In ‘King Arthur’s Court (Movie Review)

Through thick and thin, I seem to want to stand by Guy Ritchie. Okay, so maybe Swept Away took things a bit too far, but I’ve been happy to support Ritchie from his London gangster film days into his more commercial fair. I dig the man’s style and have found his hyper-kinetic filmmaking approach to Sherlock Holmes and other recent efforts as a refreshingly exciting way to tackle familiar properties. So what to make of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword? Well, it is a shame we could not have simply started with Arthur already being King, as every attempt to do something unique is seemingly undone by trite origin story plot elements. That said, the attitude of this film, the supporting characters and overall production design made for something more interesting than any of the mediocre advertising has been selling.

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NBFF 2017 Review: Animated, Irish & Horror Shorts

Wrapping up my coverage of this year’s Newport Beach Film Festival, I wanted to shine the spotlight on some of the short film programs I was able to see. Thanks to some hype created by my lovely girlfriend, I was particularly excited to see the animated and Irish short programs but was also able to see a set of horror shorts as well. There is always plenty to admire in these films, as they must tell a full story in a limited amount of time while also showing off a level of cinematic talent from newer and veteran filmmakers alike. Here are some thoughts on the short films in particular that stuck out to me in the programs I saw.

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The Umbrellas of Cherbourg – The Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)

Get ready for a colorful and musical delight with The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. This Criterion Collection release has actually already been available in 2014’s The Essential Jacques Demy Blu-ray box set. However, it would seem the resounding success of the Oscar-winning La La Land led to a separate release, as that film is so indebted to both ‘Cherbourg’ as well as Demy’s The Young Girls of Rochefort, which also received a separate release. There’s also the matter of ‘Cherbourg’ being simply one of the well-regarded musicals of its time, placing it as a highlight among the French New Wave and serving as an ambitious inspiration for many films that followed. So yes, for those who can’t afford the full Demy Blu-ray box set, Criterion at least has you covered for one of the major highlights of his filmography.

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Intense Mind Games Found Behind ‘The Wall’ (Movie Review)

There’s something quite commendable about the minimalist nature of The Wall. Seeing director Doug Liman come down from films such as Edge of Tomorrow Live. Die. Repeat. and Jumper for a claustrophobic thriller may or may not just be something of a stylistic exercise in between Tom Cruise adventures, but it is certainly entertaining. Armed with one desert local, minimal production design, two actors and a disembodied voice, here’s a film that manages to stretch a simple premise into pulpy cat and mouse game. Hiding a genre film under the guise of a war movie makes it all the more intriguing.

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‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Episode II: Attack Of The Groot (Movie Review)

It’s fitting that mixtapes play a pivotal role in these Guardians of the Galaxy films. Like the first movie, Vol. 2 continues to mix a variety of different styles into one enjoyable cinematic playlist that will easily entertain the huge audience ready to hop into Star-Lord’s Milano and go for a ride. Writer/director James Gunn delivered something special back in 2014, and he’s now returned to provide more for this group of a-holes to do. An added level of confidence, as well as a boost in ambition and budget, allows the film to deliver some wild space opera pyrotechnics while doubling down on the character interaction and sarcastic bent that helped separate the first from the rest of the MCU. It’s a shame the actual plot is not more compelling or propulsive, but when you have this much fun watching these characters, that only matters so much.

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NBFF 2017 Review: The Exception

Closing out the 18th Annual Newport Beach Film Festival is The Exception, a World War II drama that may as well be called The Good Nazi. Adapted from the novel “The Kaiser’s Last Kiss” by Alan Judd, the film tells the story of a German Nazi Captain who falls in love with a Jewish Dutch spy. The conceit is pulpy enough to fit right in with Paul Verhoeven’s great 2006 WWII thriller Black Book, but there is a major problem in the film’s attempt to be anything more than serviceable at best. Leave it to star Jai Courtney to make a film like this duller than it ought to be.

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Oscar Nominee “LAND OF MINE” Debuts on Blu-ray June 6

LAND OF MINE, Academy Award® nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, will debut on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital on D-Day, June 6, from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Written and directed by Martin Zandvliet (A Funny Man, Applause) and featuring Roland Møller (A Hijacking, A Second Chance), LAND OF MINE, set in post-World War II Denmark, explores the relationship between a hardened Danish sergeant and the young German prisoners of war who are conscripted to defuse thousands of land mines from the Danish coast. LAND OF MINE, which is based on true events, was awarded 3 European Film Awards, including Best Cinematographer, Best Costume Design and Best Hair and Makeup and was an official selection at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival and the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.

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The Darkly Comedic ‘Free Fire’ Shows You The Way Of The Gun (Movie Review)

I love seeing various action movies that show you two extremes. On the one side, you get a vintage John Woo flick like Hard Boiled, where Chow Yun-fat can equip himself with dual pistols and slide down a staircase banister while hitting plenty of bad guys. The other side leads something like one of my favorites, The Way of the Gun or the subject of this review, Free Fire, where people are terrible at shooting guns, regardless of distance and it’s a complicated process in order to actually put someone down for good. This action-comedy from director Ben Wheatley delivers on its simple premise, making for an incredibly entertaining ride through one sloppy shootout.

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NBFF 2017 Review: The Hero

One of the advantages of seeing smaller films touring around festivals is having a chance to see character actors in lead roles. The Hero provides the great Sam Elliot this chance and it’s a joy to watch. No stranger to cinema, Elliot has been a stable presence in many films and TV shows for over 40 years. Here’s a film that gets to play with his image, while also challenging the man to be more than just a mustachioed character actor with a deep and wonderful voice.

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NBFF 2017 Review: The Scent Of Rain And Lightning

There is a lot to get out of films surrounding family secrets. Ideally, you are gradually drawn into learning about who a family is, establishing various personas, only to have things turn around on you thanks to sudden reveals. It’s not a cheat to make these sort of twists, as you’ve been effectively coerced into feeling like a part of the family. The Scent of Rain and Lightning is a modern western with a mystery at its core. We are well aware that something bad happened early on, but the film wants us to continue questioning the validity of this fact throughout. Unfortunately, the results are not as effective as they could be, due to a disjointed narrative.

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NBFF 2017 Review: Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton

The tagline for this year’s Newport Beach Film Festival is “Go Deeper” and that is certainly fitting for the Opening Night premiere film. Take Every Wave: The Life of Laid Hamilton is both an extreme sports film, featuring some breathtaking footage, and a solid biographical study of big-wave surfer and ocean pioneer Laird Hamilton. This documentary from director Rory Kennedy certainly does take us deeper, as we spend nearly two hours watching the story of a fearless and quite affable athlete who has pushed himself hard to find various successes throughout his life, while also experiencing some literal and emotional tough breaks.

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