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Blu-ray Review: 2013 Hollywood Disaster ‘47 Ronin’ Rescued by Mediocrity

47 Ronin with Keanu Reeves

CHICAGO – If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between a director and a producer, let “47 Ronin” explain how the hierarchy of creativity hinders the evolution of even the most straightforward-sounding pitches. “47 Ronin” is the type of samurai movie set in Japan that features native actors speaking only English, while Keanu Reeves stars as an outsider clearly plunked into the picture for stateside star power.

What to Watch: March 25-April 11, 2014

The Wolf of Wall Street

What to Watch is back in two-week form this time around, hitting the most important Blu-ray, DVD, and streaming offerings from both March 25th and April 1st. No April Fool’s Day jokes here. We’re above that. Sorta. What you will find is one of the best movies of last year, a fantastic comedy series, a foreign film you really should see, and further proof that John Cusack is merely slipping into straight-to-DVD oblivion like that damn horse in “The Neverending Story”. Pick one of the six. What the Hell, pick two.

DVD Review: ‘Contracted’ is Sick, But That’s a Good Thing

Contracted DVD (teaser)

CHICAGO – We’ve all seen the girl at the party. You know the one who catches your eye as she walks by. She’s beautiful but alone, looks a little lost, and, sadly, almost always winds up with some other guy. Eric England introduces us to such a girl at the beginning of his film “Contracted” and then spends the rest of the movie’s runtime punishing the hell out of her as a mysterious and fast moving STD eats away at all the things that had us looking in the first place.

What to Watch: Mar. 11-24, 2014

American Hustle

An Oscar winner, a major Oscar nominee, two more pieces of Oscar bait, and a few movies that never got anywhere near Oscar. Welcome to What to Watch. We don’t play favorites. Oh, wait, yes we do. You should definitely rent or buy the titles on this first page. The second page is more optional.

DVD Review: ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ Sings Again on DVD

Inside Llewyn Davis

CHICAGO – “Inside Llewyn Davis” shows the strength of the Coen brothers’ authorship, and the vitality their vision gives to different time periods, locations, and life experiences. This freewheelin’ bildungsroman of destiny? coincidence? trails a scraggly singer/songwriter (Oscar Isaac as the title character), daring to spread olden tunes in a period of American artistry that is pre-Dylan.

What to Watch: Feb. 25-Mar. 10, 2014

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

We’re back! Did you survive the Oscars? Are you looking for something to watch on Blu-ray, DVD, or streaming service? We have a few options for you released right at the end of February or the beginning of March, including a couple great animated shows, a Best Picture nominee, an FX sitcom, and a mega-blockbuster. Pick your favorites. All five are worth a look.

DVD Review: ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’ Gets Slight Release

Blue is the Warmest Color

The Criterion Collection’s deal with IFC Films has to a unique subset of their catalog. While most Criterion films are either acknowledged classics or foreign/smaller films that the company wants to shed more light on, the IFC ones are generally current. While some of the choices have questionable, we’ve also seen recent greats like “Certified Copy,” “Fish Tank,” next month’s “The Great Beauty,” and this week’s “Blue is the Warmest Color” joining the collection earlier than they otherwise would have. “Blue” is a great film with two of the best performances of 2013. Sadly, the DVD release doesn’t reflect the film’s quality.

What to Watch: Feb. 18-24, 2014

The Americans

What an amazing week for TV fans. As if you didn’t have enough stacking to do with the new, brilliant season of “House of Cards” on Netflix, there are four other full seasons in this week’s What to Watch that you really should watch front to back. And then there’s the still-amazing “Darkman,” a cult classic that perfectly captures Sam Raimi’s skill at controlled chaos. Finally, we have two ’80s horror flicks in one set in “Bad Dreams” and “Visiting Hours.” Check ‘em all out (OK, you can skip the genre stinkers).

What to Watch: Feb. 11-17, 2014

The Returned

We’re a little light on quantity at What to Watch this week but not on quality. And our newest contributor, Dave Canfield, has already handled today’s release of “All is Lost,” a film you really should add to whatever queue allows you to see quality films. When you’re done with that, pick one of these five. OK, four. Ignore “Diana.” Please.

What to Watch: Feb. 4-10, 2014

Dallas Buyers Club

While there is a likely Oscar-winner, a massive box set from HBO, and some true crowd-pleasers in this week’s What to Watch, it’s a bit of a downer compared to some more recent jam-packed weeks of Blu-ray and streaming greatness. We also couldn’t find an On Demand title this week worth mentioning, although Denis Villeneuve’s “Enemy,” starring Jake Gyllenhaal, hits DirecTV On Demand this Thursday and you can bet we’ll be there to check it out before a March theatrical release. Until then, rent or buy something below.

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TV, DVD, BLU-RAY & THEATER REVIEWS

  • The King of Comedy

    Something always felt a bit out of place for me in Martin Scorsese’s brilliant “The King of Comedy”, just released on Blu-ray for the first time. I couldn’t put my finger on it but chalked it up to it being thematically ahead of its time in its investigation of the cult of personality that defines modern entertainment.

  • 47 Ronin with Keanu Reeves

    CHICAGO – If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between a director and a producer, let “47 Ronin” explain how the hierarchy of creativity hinders the evolution of even the most straightforward-sounding pitches. “47 Ronin” is the type of samurai movie set in Japan that features native actors speaking only English, while Keanu Reeves stars as an outsider clearly plunked into the picture for stateside star power.

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