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Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray Review: ‘Ride Along’ is Just Another Generic Buddy Cop Comedy

Ride Along with Ice Cube

CHICAGO – Few figures have had less of an exciting domination of the world than Kevin Hart. In the past few years, the comedian has skyrocketed to leading fixture in the comedy scene, creating hit scripts out of films like “Think Like A Man” and “About Last Night,” while taking victory laps in his lacking stand-up features like “Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain”. The big problem is that these projects don’t justify his comic potential.

Blu-ray Review: ‘Grudge Match’ is Strictly Lightweight

Grudge Match

CHICAGO – This forgettable time waster is mildly amusing as long as you don’t let yourself go into mourning over Robert Deniro’s career. But then again that almost goes without saying these days. Likewise Stallone who has had far more interesting career choices in the last decade than this. The pair play retired boxers who comes out of retirement for one last fight. One for the paycheck. The other to settle an old score.

Blu-ray Review: ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

CHICAGO – It seems mean to pick on a movie for being merely entertaining. But when that film is part of the Lord of the Rings canon such criticism is fair. Peter Jackson manages to thrill here via some stunning action, and a truly memorable CGI Smaug. But Bilbo’s point of view seems lost in all the action, other characters and subplots. Clearly Jackson and Fran Walsh want The Hobbit to feel connected to their breathtaking Lord of the Rings trilogy but The Hobbit just doesn’t feel intimate enough. The second film in the trilogy is more entertaining but only marginally more moving.

Blu-ray Review: Martin Scorsese’s ‘The King of Comedy’ Crosses Generations

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.

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.

Blu-Ray Review: Worth Getting Lost in ‘A Field in England’

A Field in England (teaser)

CHICAGO – I can’t recommend this more. “A Field in England” is a flashback and a flash forward all at once. It’s impossible to watch without thinking of great counter culture cinema. In fact when I saw it at Fantastic Fest 2013 it played as part of a double bill with Ken Russell’s “The Devils” (1971). They made perfect cinematic companion pieces. Russell’s film concerned a wayward priest desperate to protect his 17th century city from corruption in the Church only to fall victim to group hysteria when he is, ironically, accused of witchcraft by a jealous nun.

Blu-ray Review: Criterion Inducts Bergman’s ‘Persona’ Into Collection

Persona

Few films have ever been as dissected and analyze as Ingmar Bergman’s “Persona”, recently released on Criterion Blu-ray for the first time with new special features. It’s somewhat ironic that so many people have spent so much intellectual energy on a film that Bergman admits came to him at a point of low health almost in a dream. In fact, “Persona” somewhat becomes less interesting to me as it’s dissected, much like Lynch’s “Mulholland Dr.” or Malick’s “Tree of Life”. They are distinctly emotional, symbolic pieces and perhaps they should just be appreciated as such instead of such analysis of “what they mean.” However you choose to appreciate one of Bergman’s most influential films, you should do so with the Criterion edition from this day forward.

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.

Blu-ray Review: Office Comedy ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ Has a Case of the Mondays

Welcome to the Jungle

CHICAGO – Without rescue of a creative joke in sight, “Welcome to the Jungle” eventually devolves into an unsavory mash of “The Office” meets “Lord of the Flies”. Adam Brody’s Chris Myers is the lead character in a cube monkey’s generic fantasy, of which this film treats with a checklist. The attractive and amiable office mate (played by Megan Boone of Chicago Film Critics Festival favorite “Leave Me Like You Found Me”) is to be wooed, a manchild boss (Rob Huebel) is to be dethroned from his ego, and a world of freedom is to be revealed for those who have imprisoned themselves to 9-5 pressures.

Blu-ray Review: ‘The Best of Bogart Collection’ Highlights Four Must-Owns

Casablanca

There are handful of actors who will forever be ingrained in the canon of film history. John Wayne, Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, James Dean, Gregory Peck, to name just a few. One of the most iconic actors of all time, Humphrey Bogart, gets his own four-movie Blu-ray collection this week. This is the kind of release that usually hits near Father’s Day. Get your shopping done early this year.

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TV, DVD, BLU-RAY & THEATER REVIEWS

  • Ride Along with Ice Cube

    CHICAGO – Few figures have had less of an exciting domination of the world than Kevin Hart. In the past few years, the comedian has skyrocketed to leading fixture in the comedy scene, creating hit scripts out of films like “Think Like A Man” and “About Last Night,” while taking victory laps in his lacking stand-up features like “Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain”. The big problem is that these projects don’t justify his comic potential.

  • 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.

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