HollywoodChicago.com Blu-Ray Reviews
CHICAGO – I usually avoid this kind of hyperbole but I adore the best of Studio Ghibli and know their entire catalog well and so I feel I can say it — “My Neighbor Totoro” is one of the best family films of all time. Hayao Miyazaki’s gentle variation on “Alice in Wonderland,” has everything that we identify with Ghibli, including a respect for nature, magical sense of fantasy, and importance of family.
CHICAGO – I find it fascinating that “Fringe,” the show that always seemed to be on the bubble for renewal and was always included in articles about low-rated programming, appears to be one of the most influential on the Fall 2013 season. FOX has two new dramas in the Fall and they’re both from “Fringe” alum — J.J. Abrams’ “Almost Human” and Robert Orci & Alex Kurtzman’s “Sleepy Hollow”. They’re clearly looking for, believe it or not, the next “Fringe.” For while the smart sci-fi drama never found a huge audience on TV, it found an incredibly loyal one on Blu-ray, On Demand, iTunes, etc. and those fans can now complete their collection with a bittersweet but complete fifth and final season release.
CHICAGO – “Mama” isn’t exactly an original piece (it borrows heavily from horror archetypes, particularly those that turned Asian horror into a trend) but it isn’t always the originality of the composition but how well it’s played that matters. “Mama” is, mostly, well-played. The atmosphere brought to it by director Andy Muschietti, the character depth provided by Jessica Chastain, the brilliant touch of producer Guillermo Del Toro — “Mama” deliveres. Mostly. Some decisions made in the CGI department are disappointing but there’s still a lot to like here. Definitely worth a rental.
CHICAGO – “Jack Reacher” doesn’t work as an action movie. However, if you approach the mannered dialogue and dark storytelling as a noir, which is what I believe the writer and director (if not the marketing team at Paramount) intended, then there’s a lot to like here. It’s a stylized, slick, well-made ride with some crackling dialogue, charismatic performances, and heavy doses of style.
CHICAGO – At its best, Lasse Hallstrom’s “Safe Haven,” based on the book by the insanely popular Nicholas Sparks, is merely safe, Lifetime Channel TV Movie junk. At its worst, it’s pretty offensive and exploitative of women actually stuck in abusive situations and men forced into single parenthood after losing a spouse. As he has done before, Sparks takes real-world issues and turns them into manipulative devices. Hallstrom (“Chocolat”) has enough filmmaking skill to keep it from getting too boring despite the attempts on the part of the two remarkably dull leads to put you to sleep.
CHICAGO – Why do they keep making these awful movies? I’m a horror fan. I think Tobe Hooper’s original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is a truly effective (if a bit overrated) movie that has to be included on a list of the most influential of its era. But nearly everything that it has literally spawned has been awful. Sure, “TCM 2” has some wackadoo charm but the modern remakes — the two Platinum Dunes flicks and now this 3D stinker, reecently released on Blu-ray and DVD, are just a waste of time. To be fair, this reboot/sequel isn’t nearly as annoying as the last two but it’s still awful.
CHICAGO – So you’re a young woman who decides to fall asleep in your car parked just off the highway. You’re awoken by the rapping fist of a chiseled cop who leers at you with the sexual appetite of a drooling wolf. Sounds like a meet cute straight out of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” But in Marcio Garcia’s head-slapping dud, “Open Road,” it’s supposed to be heartwarming.
CHICAGO – There’s a large part of me that wants to wholeheartedly recommend and embrace “Cloud Atlas” for two reasons. One, it’s based on arguably the best book of the millennium so far, David Mitchell’s stunning masterpiece. And if more people see the movie, more are likely to read a book that everyone should experience.
CHICAGO – “Frankie Go Boom” is a comedy about deplorable people who commit heartless acts and expect us to laugh at them. It casts the hugely lovable Chris O’Dowd as the most loathsome schlub ever to materialize on the big screen since Josh Gad’s wretched comic relief in “Love and Other Drugs.” And it puts Ron Perlman in drag but fails to give him a single laugh-worthy line. What a misfire.
CHICAGO – Besedka Johnson was 85 years old when she was discovered at a YMCA. After devoting her life to astrology, the genial woman was suddenly brought to the attention of indie filmmakers intrigued by her vintage movie star features. At 86, she delivered a tour-de-force film debut in Sean Baker’s marvelous drama, “Starlet.” And at 87, she passed away.