Category Archives: DVD Review

  • 0

DVD Review – The Daughter

Category : DVD Review

Director: Simon Stone

Starring: Paul Schneider, Ewen Leslie, Odessa Young

Geoffrey Rush, Sam Neill, Miranda Otto, Anna Torv

Year: 2015

Simon Stone’s first attempt at either writing or directing a feature film was a complete success.  Well, in directing more than writing perhaps, but taken as whole, The Daughter is a movie that works, and the first wave of credit should go to its director.  Stone is an Aussie actor and stage director who tries his hand at cinema for the first time here, and someone we ought to be seeing more from in the near future.  He’s got the touch, and what’s even more important, he seems to know when to let his actors do the work for him, something that I’m sure is invaluable in the world of theatre.  What ultimately makes this film a success is that, when the director gave the reins to his cast, they handled them with admirable expertise, resulting in 90 minutes of high-quality dramatics.

The Movie

In a small, backwoods town in Australia, life revolves around the timber mill run by Henry, the local land baron.  When the mill loses its last contract, Henry announces its closure, which means the end of employment (and probably life) in the area for a large portion of working-class men.  Henry might feel badly, the company has been in his family for decades, but there’s nothing much to do, and he’ll have to accept the ire of the local people.  His own plans march on though, as he has a wedding coming up, a marriage to his much-younger housekeeper Anna, a beautiful woman who wants a powerful man.  Flying in for the ceremony is Christian, Henry’s estranged son, and a catalyst for what will happen next.

Christian reunites with his high school and college buddy Oliver, a regular townie who will be looking for a new job as well, with the mill closing.  He lives with his wife Charlotte, his aging father Walter, and his brilliant daughter Hedvig, a simple yet happy family.  Christian can’t boast the same, with a difficult childhood and frequent moves defining his growing up, with a marriage on the rocks haunting his current life.  But for the moment, the two friends enjoy their reunion, and prepare for a few days spent together.  This peace will be broken by a long-held secret that can’t stay hidden any more, a skeleton in the closet that will effect the lives of every member of both families.

Stone’s direction is pretty impressive for an amateur, although his stage experience should be taken into account and absolutely aided him in making this film.  He was able to commit to a style in a very specific way and in a manner that was impressive for a beginner.  At first, I wondered at the gimmick, but when he refused to sway from it or apologize for using it throughout the film, I began to appreciate that he had chosen a way for which his characters to interact, a sort of delayed conversation and partial voice over that just felt smart.  It was almost as if he didn’t care whether you liked it or not, or perhaps more accurately, he felt confident that you eventually would.

Like I said, a director can only take a project so far, an intelligent director eventually hands the story off to his cast, and luckily for Simon, this cast was more than up to the task.  Schneider may have been the lead, and he’s a recognizable face for American audiences, but Leslie was just as important to the plot, and delivered just as strong a performance.  The vets of the movie, Rush and Neill, were perfection, playing their respective pater familias parts just the way you imagine they would.  The revelation here is the title actress, Odessa Young, who made her big screen debut with The Daughter, but who we’ll be seeing a whole lot more from very soon.  She’s special in that Joey King sort of way, something that can’t be ignored, and something that can literally make a movie.  She didn’t have to though, the cast and crew all held their own, joining together to make a surprisingly wonderful and pleasantly shocking film.

The Blu-ray

Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (1920x1080p), the video quality of the Blu-ray disc is very nice but rather unnecessary.  This is an emotional drama, and never needs the clarity of the Blu-ray medium or the ceiling to be stretched at all.  The visuals are strong, the cinematography excellent, but the potential of the picture is never realized since the director focused on content rather than technicalities.

Audio – With a choice between DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 or 2.0, the audio quality is solid.  Without frills perhaps, like the video, but solid nonetheless.  Subtitles can be engaged in English SDH; no other language options are available.  The best part about the sound is the neverending supply of background music, an overarcing theme that helped sweep us into the story.

Extras – The only bonus feature is a trailer for the film.

Final Thoughts

Highly Recommended.  There are powerful emotions at play in this film, taking us to places that not every audience member will want to go.  But if you’re willing to travel there, the rewards might be worth it.  Stone weaves a complicated plot more deftly than I would have thought likely, and his cast takes up any slack, delivering a moving drama about family and pain that I won’t quickly forget.  The daughter at the center of the story is a shockingly pivotal figure, forcing us as parents to take a look at ourselves, whether what we see in the mirror pleases us or not.  And the acting throughout the film, minus a bit of overreaching at the end, forces the plot home.  As far as the disc goes, the video is adequate, the audio strong, but you won’t be impressed by the extras, so perhaps look elsewhere for stunning technical feats.  Watch this film for a refreshing look at a new director and new actress, as well as an excitingly intriguing story that won’t leave you alone.

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save


  • 0

DVD Review – Rogue One

Category : DVD Review

Director: Gareth Edwards

Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn

Year: 2016

With the creation of The Force Awakens, the Star Wars universe was brought back into our lives with a vengeance.  You can’t quite call the enormity of the success of that film unexpected, since the franchise has always been a homerun-hitter, even with relative duds like Episodes 1 and 2.  But I’m not sure that the intense love of so many, of audiences across the board, could have been predicted, and the success the film had in marketing and merchandise was incredible as well.  Trust Hollywood to seize any opportunity to make money, and so multiple more films in the series are in the works, including offshoots like Rogue One.  I think this counts as a win-win though, as the studio will make millions, the saga will continue through another generation, and we get to see more Star Wars, which can’t be counted as a bad thing.

The Movie

Where The Force Awakens leaped forward in time, Rogue One jumps back, filling in a major blank and allowing audiences to understand the events leading up to the Rebellion’s first major victory in its war against the Empire.  This is the story of the rebel group that stole the plans to the Death Star, allowing Luke Skywalker to fire his fateful shot.  They were led by the valiant Jyn Erso, daughter of Galen Erso, the mind behind the ultimate weapon.  But although he was forced to create a killing machine, he built within in a small flaw that would go undetected and could also spell the end of the dreaded Star were it only known.  Getting a message through to the daughter he left behind years ago, Galen shared the secret with Jyn, the hero who would lead a team of freedom fighters in a suicide mission to steal the plans from the Empire, transmit them to the Rebellion, expose the secret of the tiny, exploitable flaw, and, in so doing, attempt to save the galaxy.

Her band is made up of a motley crew of unlikely heroes.  Jyn herself, the daughter of an Imperial engineer, raised by rebels and taught to trust no one.  Cassian Andor, a pilot with the Rebellion who has done unspeakable things in the name of freedom.  His robot, K-2SO, who a memory wipe has left unsettlingly sarcastic.  Bodhi, a defector from the Empire, the delivery of the message from Galen.  Chirrut, a guardian of the Jedi temple, and his guardian, Baze.  Along with a pack of Rebels with nothing to lose, this team will have to do the unthinkable against insurmountable odds, with the fate of the galaxy in their very hands.  They say that rebellions are built on hope, and hope is all that’s left for the few who refuse to bow to the ever-growing evil that threatens to take control of the universe.

One small step back from The Force Awakens but still a solid addition to a story on a grand scale that we will never completely tire of, Rogue One is a piece of the puzzle that we are lucky to be able to see on screen, instead of simply hearing about in passing from Mon Mothma as the rebels prepare their fateful attack in Episode 4.  For the first time, we are able to watch the Rebellion in play, the scattered members coming together to defeat an unbeatable foe.  We can watch the mission that changed history and those brave few who attempted the impossible.  If you’re a fan of the franchise, and let’s just assume you are, since being otherwise would be madness, then you’ll appreciate the bonus coverage, as it were, the extra bit of drama brought to the screen and created to establish even more of a back story to the films we’ve all loved for decades.  And beyond that, and perhaps the best part of the film, we get to experience Darth Vader in his prime, his most feared, even watching the monster in battle and experiencing the reason for the terror of the galaxy.

Establishing Darth Vader’s reputation, watching the Rebellion before Luke joins, viewing the exact moments that lead up to the beginning of Episode 4 and Vader’s boarding of Leia’s ship; these are the highlights of the film.  These story elements are fantastic, flesh out the plot of the other films, and act as delicious dinner to any casual fans or lifelong followers.  Dessert comes in the form of the cinematography, the reemergence of Walkers, the gory battles, the sounds of TIE fighters, the uniforms of the Rebellion; basically, all the tiny elements of this universe that we love.  This delivery of exactly what we want does gloss over a few flaws in the film, but well enough that we don’t really end up caring.  Felicity Jones is an odd choice for Jyn and never actually changes her facial expressions or tone of voice throughout the film.  The sequence of events is a little bumpy and doesn’t become smooth until the very end.  But whenever there s a negative, there are positives to cover them over; the incredible Alan Tudyk as the wise-cracking robot, the passionate Diego Luna as Cassian Andor, the amazing Ben Mendelsohn as the evil Krennic. Playing more as a war movie than a Star Wars film, Rogue One is still a must-see part of this ever-expanding story arc, something to enjoy on many different levels and to watch more than once.

The Blu-ray

Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.39:1 (1080p HD Widescreen) and shot using an Arri Alexa 65 camera with Panavision APO Panatar and Hawk65 lenses, the video quality of the Blu-ray disc is all you could want and more.  From the opening sequence, the visuals will stun audiences, or perhaps would have had we not been given a taste of what we hungered for in Force Awakens.  Still, we won’t tire of X-Wing battles and foreign planets, especially not when they are delivered with such high clarity and precision.

Audio – The Blu-ray disc was done in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, with Dolby Digital language tracks available in English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, Spanish 5.1, and French 5.1, with subtitles available in English SDH, Spanish, and French.  The audio quality is top-notch, with stunning sound from the spacecraft, weapons, explosions, etc.  The music is excellent as well, with an original score that feels very Star Wars but can exist on its own quite nicely.

Extras – There are quite a few special features on the separate Blu-ray bonus features disc (with subtitle options in English, French, Spanish, or Portuguese), though mainly of the same vein.  The Stories is a collection of 10 behind-the-scenes-with-cast-and-crew featurettes that shed more light on the characters and Star Wars universe: A Rogue Idea, Jyn: The Rebel, Cassian: The Spy, K-2SO: The Droid, Baze & Chirrut: Guardians of the Whills, Bodhi & Saw: The Pilot & The Revolutionary, The Empire, Visions Of Hope: The Look Of Rogue One, The Princess & The Governor, Epilogue: The Story Continues.  Also, Rogue Connections is a 4-minute segment showcasing easter eggs and similarities between this film and those set in the universe.  And lastly, Info, a simple disclaimer.

Final Thoughts

Highly Recommended.  This marks the third time I’ve seen Rogue One, and it holds up.  I could pick apart Felicity Jones’ acting or Forest Whitaker’s character choices, and there’s a case to be made that the film is far from perfect.  But after multiple views, I come back to the fact that I appreciated much more than I critiqued.  This movie does the universe justice and gives curious fans more to the larger story, two greatly appreciated aspects.  It may be more war drama and less sci-fi, but those who enjoy both will find a multitude to enjoy here as well.  The video is awesome, the music great, and the extras are cool; can’t ask for much more from the technical side.  I would simply recommend not picking through the dialogue with a fine-toothed comb; it won’t stand up and doing so will lessen the entertainment value of what is absolutely a high-quality watch.

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save


  • 0

DVD Review – Baby, Baby, Baby

Category : DVD Review

Director: Brian Klugman

Starring: Brian Klugman, Adrianne Palicki

Year: 2015

Perhaps his family is owed a few favors, because that’s the only way I can understand how Brian Klugman gets so many celebrities to pop up in his indie films.  He is the nephew of the late Jack Klugman (Odd Couple, Quincy), but the guy himself has absolutely nothing under his belt.  In 2012 he writes and directors The Words, his first attempt at anything, and it bombs, but wow does it have star power: Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Dennis Quaid, Jeremy Irons, Olivia Wilde, Michael McKean, J.K. Simmons.  How he got all those actors in his debut film is beyond me.  And then he turns around, writes/directs/leads a new feature called Baby Baby Baby (terrible title), dumps a ton of celebrities into it, and creates a crappy movie yet again.  Eventually, people will catch on, despite however he’s been getting names to sign up for his pictures.

The Movie

Sydney and Sunny, two Pennsylvania natives who find themselves in L.A. pursuing dead end art careers, begin a relationship based on the premise that two damaged adults can make love work if they are only willing to air out their dirty laundry, no matter how uncomfortable it might be.  Sydney is an actor, mainly crappy commercials, but he also enjoys writing, often penning clever short stories about love and the oddity of imagined pairings.  He is also a hopeless self-doubter, requiring constant attention and reassurance from his partner, as each small slight seems to turn him into an anxious, raging, sputtering asshole.  He’s a year removed from a hurtful breakup, but when he meets Sunny, he desperately wants to give happiness another chance.

She is a painter, although she mostly tends bar.  Her dream is to show in art galleries some day, but until then she’s got to make ends meet and live in her crack den bungalow.  Sunny’s major flaw is falling for the wrong guy, or perhaps always wanting what she can’t have.  She’s extremely beautiful, loves movies quotes, and seems a great catch, but she still brings her fair share of baggage to the party.  Our heroes date, fall in love, begin a life together, all the while trying to understand each other’s faults and insecurities whenever they rear their ugly heads.  But being a couple is tough, sometimes you learn things you’d rather you hadn’t, and often you begin to drive each other crazy, relying on the love you once knew to carry you through the darkest times.

Cloris Leachman, William Shatner, Dennis Haysbert (the Allstate guy), Jonathan Silverman, Bradley Cooper, Jessica Alba, Jared Harris (that British guy), Kelsey Grammer; how Klugman got all these actors to be in his film is beyond me.  Did he pay them, did they do it for fun, do they all know each other, what the heck is going on?!  Needless to say, the moments the actual stars were in the film were the best moments, the only pieces that felt real.  Which is ironic, because they only came in for these mini-stories that emerged from Syndey’s imagination, popping up to make a point and to be funny, but having no impact on the plot.  Those were the best scenes in the film, and really the only enjoyable pieces of the entire wacky puzzle.

Klugman is not a very good actor, and his writing is extremely predictable.  I knew before the movie started that it would be one of those films that opens with a moaning sex scene played for comedic effect, and sure enough that’s exactly what happened.  This film is simply a rom/com masquerading as something else, as some indie project that we should take a lesson from, which seems laughable after having watched the movie.  It didn’t help that Palicki wasn’t very good either; gorgeous of course, but not very talented, and the pair of them together had about as much chemistry as a turtle and a yard sign.  Not much went right, there were a couple laughs, but in general Baby Baby Baby felt extremely amateur and like a giant waste of time.

The DVD

Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and shot using an Arri Alexa camera, the video quality of the film is fine without being anything to write home about.  The California sunshine aids in the enjoyment of the scenery, and the camerawork is adequate, but the visuals will not wow you.

Audio – The disc was done in English 5.1 Dolby Digital, with subtitle options of English, English SDH, Chinese Traditional, French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, and Thai.  The audio quality of the film was forgettable, lacking even a strong soundtrack to keep your attention.

Extras – The only special features are four trailers: We Don’t Belong Here, Lost and Found, Cross Wars, Spin Out.

Final Thoughts

Rent It.  I don’t see this young writer/director/actor as having a real chance to make it big, despite the names he can apparently draw into his poor projects at will.  Klugman isn’t funny enough to craft a comedy nor talented enough to take a film onto his shoulders, leaving his movies in a mess.  He chose a beautiful woman to star alongside him in this one, which seems a selfish decision, since she wasn’t great, they didn’t have chemistry, and it always came across as an awkward pairing.  The video of the film isn’t great, neither is the audio, and there aren’t many special features, so the technical aspects won’t win you over either.  It’s probably best to stay away from Baby Baby Baby, unless you’re in a really forgiving mood.

☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ – Extras

☆ – Replay

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save


  • 0

DVD Review – London Town

Category : DVD Review

Director: Derrick Borte

Starring: Daniel Huttlestone, Nell Williams, Jonathan Rhys Meyers

Year: 2016

When I first saw the trailer, I thought that you’d have to love The Clash to love London Town, that it would be a sort of tribute movie that I couldn’t appreciate since I don’t appreciate the band.  But by the end of the film, I realized that wasn’t the case at all.  Instead of being a music movie, it was a Hallmark original, a British version of the cheeseballs we’re served far too often over here in the States.  I didn’t know that other countries produced such low-impact features that only a mother could love, films that you have to adore like a long-lost puppy in order to enjoy.  London Town wasn’t at all what I was expecting, but I did fall for the trick of rooting for the underdog, so I guess it wasn’t a complete loss.

The Movie

Disco is dead, rock’n’roll is taking the throne, long live the Queen.  This is London in the late 70s, as one decade gives way to another, as music displays the direction the new culture is taking, or perhaps even guides it along the way.  14-year-old Shay Baker lives with his dad and sister in a small town outside the capitol, taking care of the family after his mother left to join an alternative commune in the city.  His dad sells pianos and drives a cab at night, trying to keep enough money coming in to hold off the debt-collectors, while Shay takes care of his sis, goes to school, and helps around the store.  He is classically trained, loves music, and has his eyes opened to punk when his mom sends him a cassette of a new band, the only one that matters; The Clash.

That sound changes Shay’s life, and opens the door to new possibilities beyond the future his dad has imagined for him.  On the way into London one day, Shay meets Vivian, a punk girl around his own age who seems cool beyond her years and invites him to a Clash show.  This is the beginning of a grand adventure, one that will teach Shay about life and show him both the beauty and danger therein.  His father gets injured on the job, his mother is hopelessly irresponsible, his sister is relying on him, Vivian is like a goddess, and then he meets Joe Strummer; that’s a lot to handle for one kid coming-of-age in a city that’s attempting to do the same, and not every decision he makes will be the most brilliant.

I compared this film to a Hallmark movie, and it really was shocking to me to come to the realization that England must have its own cheesy film genre, that there must be an equivalent across the pond.  It’s not that London Town is bad, it’s that it’s sappy and simple, a movie made to tell a pleasant story without bothering with the messier details.  That’s a category that some people like, a category that doesn’t challenge them in the way that other films do, and something that wraps up at the end with a nice bow, despite the difficulties of real life.  Fine, if that’s your thing, and even I can become invested in that sort of flick if I fall in love with a character or two, or if I can just ignore the cheese long enough to appreciate what some under-talented director is trying to tell me.

The music helps, Clash songs and Rhys Meyers with a cool Strummer portrayal, providing a backing track to a story that’s a little silly if you look too closely.  And the axle is Huttlestone, who didn’t bomb, didn’t shine, falling somewhere in the muddy middle.  He’s a kid with talent, that can’t be denied, this role might just not have been perfect for him and/or written very well.  Gavroche in Les Mis, Jack in Into the Woods; he can sing, he can act, I’m just not sure he’s quite ready to put a mediocre movie on his thin shoulders.  London Town is exactly that; middling and mussy and not super-strong, a feel-good film rather than an award-winner.  It is lovable in an awkward way, just like its star, so give it credit for trying, only don’t expect too much.

The DVD

Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, the video quality of the disc isn’t great, but it’s not so bad that it will distract you from the story.  Again, like a Hallmark movie, the visuals aren’t exactly the point, and so the clarity of the picture isn’t either.  The color is fine, the costumes are pretty rad, and there’s nothing pointedly terrible, so give the video the same forgiveness you give the plot.

Audio – The film was done in Dolby Digital English 5.1, with choices of English SDH or Spanish subtitles.  That’s it as far as audio options go, and the quality of the sound is about as basic as the video.  The soundtrack is pretty cool though, with Clash songs and a punk feel that really transports you to the era.

Extras – The only special features on the DVD are an interview with Jonathan Rhys Meyers and a trailer for the movie.

Final Thoughts

Recommended.  Go in with a relaxed mindset and knowing that the film has good intentions; that’s the only way to enjoy London Town.  I’m not sure how Clash fans would feel, maybe they’d like the Strummer representation, maybe they’d hate it, who knows.  But you get a little music, a little political blowback, and a little history, so it’s not all a lost cause.  Just don’t expect too much from this movie, it isn’t wonderful in any way, it’s more a sappy attempt to tell a growing-up tale amidst the backdrop of some actual goings on.  The video is forgettable, the audio the same, and there aren’t many special features on the disc, so look elsewhere for technical fireworks.  But watch with semi-confidence that you’ll root for the kid to find happiness, and when he does, you won’t begrudge him a ‘meh’ movie.

☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save


  • 0

DVD Review – Ali and Nino

Category : DVD Review

Director: Asif Kapadia

Starring: Maria Valverde, Adam Bakri, Homayoun Ershadi

Year: 2016

First, a little history behind the tale of Ali and Nino, since this film is, first and foremost, a fictionalization of history, as well as a metaphor for actual events.  It’s based upon a 1937 novel by the same name, written by the mysterious Kurban Said, a pseudonym for an author whose real identity is still up for debate to this very day.  Said wrote the story approximately 20 years after the events on which it is based: WWI and the relationship between the budding country of Azerbaijan and its dictator, Russia.  Some 30-40 years after its publication, the book would catch the attention of millions, becoming the national novel of Azerbaijan and one of the world’s greatest literary love stories, a masterpiece of drama and romance.  The film is an attempt to bring that tale to life, to gain a greater audience for an important piece of forgotten history, and in so doing becomes a surprisingly strong feature entirely on its own.

The Movie

In the beginning years of the 1910s, the world was approaching global war for the first time.  Alliances were formed by the major countries of the world, battle lines were drawn, and an assassination would ignite a fire that would burn the entire world.  Starting in 1914 and ending in 1918, the Great War engulfed the world, and affected the lives of countless millions across the planet with its ripples.  In the Caucasus of Russia, the ancient kingdoms there had become oil empires, wealthy families holding on to old traditions but ultimately under the thumb of the Czar.  Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan; these regions were closely related, strongly desired by the world powers, and greatly changed as WWI came to an end, signalling a new era in Eurasia and a time of great upheaval that would change the fates of men.

For a young Muslim from Azerbaijan and a beautiful Christian from Georgia, the results of the war would be felt in every aspect of their lives, for both good and for ill.  Ali’s family supported his desire to marry whomever he wanted, even if she was a Christian and wouldn’t allow him to host a harem of wives.  Nino’s family was less open-minded, worrying about the Muslim faith she was marrying into, worrying that the couple should wait until after the war.  But when Nino was abducted by a rival, a traditional method at the time, all plans imploded, as she was now seen as unclean and Ali was forced to leave his home country.  Their love would conquer much in the end, but not even true romance can stop the wheels of history, and when the Russians demanded their colony with its oil fields back after the war had ended, Ali would have no choice but to fight for both the rights of his family and the freedom of his land.

There is a piece of kinetic art in Georgia (country not state) that represents this star-crossed, Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde style love affair, and if it’s so breathtaking in pictures, I wonder what it’s like right close.  Look it up if you get the chance, it’s a pair of giant, metallic statues that move through and then away from each other over a period of time, a gripping portrayal of love and loss.  That story should be remembered as one watches this movie, because it fuels every scene, the passionate and powerful fictional romance that captured an entire time period and won the hearts of an entire nation.  Watching the film without that context will simply result in something less emotional, and most audiences would probably then walk away with a “meh” upon their lips.

Understandably so perhaps, because the acting isn’t exemplary, the battle scenes aren’t amazingly choreographed, the film definitely needs the backstory to stand up to scrutiny.  But it has that base inherently, and even as someone who didn’t go in with much knowledge, I came away impressed and wanting to know much more.  To go back, I don’t mean to devalue the acting or the beautiful scenery, it was all quite nice, it just may not impress American audiences who have become used to Hollywood standards.  Maria Valverde, who you might recognize, is both solid and lovely, the young man who plays Ali is fine, and Mandy Patinkin pops in for a nod, just for fun.  To enjoy it, you’ve got to appreciate the way it brings the book to life, the way it depicts the old story, and the way it puts the history of the land into personal context, making the war seem much more realistic when viewed through the eyes of people and not nations.

The DVD

Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, the video quality is passable without being wonderful.  The visuals and the colors are nice, very vibrant, very representative of the time period, they just aren’t produced with a stunning clarity or ultra-talented eye.

Audio – The disc was done in Dolby Digital English 5.1, with subtitle options in English SDH or Spanish.  No other language choices are available, and the sound quality is as simple as the sound options.  Some lovely music is weaved throughout the story, heartbreaking notes set to the plot, which was the highlight of the audio.

Extras – The only special feature on the DVD is a trailer for the film.

Final Thoughts

Highly Recommended.  I want to travel to Georgia to see the moving art, a piece at first titled ‘Man and Woman’ but later dubbed ‘Ali and Nino’, as the artist was inspired by the great love story.  It’s that tale that kept me interested in the film and continues to fascinate me now, a plot that, without which, the movie itself might have lost some of its flavor.  It won’t impress you as an epic Hollywood war drama, but its simplicity shouldn’t count against it, neither should its reliance on the book do it discredit.  The video was fine, the audio showcasing a wonderful score, the extras were lacking, so look elsewhere for extraordinary technical features.  Watch with an eye toward history and romance, knowing that the movie is simply a vehicle for both.

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save


  • 0

DVD Review – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Category : DVD Review

Director: David Yates

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler

Year: 2016

Producing anything that is even remotely related to the Harry Potter universe is a guaranteed money-maker, from theme parks to scarves, from screenplays to jellybeans.  Creating a prequel of sorts and setting up a schedule to release one every two years is a no-brainer, Rowling & Co. set to make mega-millions more than the mega-millions they’ve already raked in.  It’s no guarantee of the quality of the side projects of course, but that hardly matters; audiences will come to the theatre in droves to see whatever new piece of the puzzle the creators of one the richest fantasy worlds ever imagined have decided to tease them with next.  I’ve read the books, I’ve seen the movies, I’m a fan, so don’t count on me to criticize the story or the money made thereon, but also don’t expect me to blindly enjoy anything they decide to label with an ‘HP’.  In fact, I didn’t enjoy this film at all, thought it was an extremely weak attempt all around, and would not put much faith in the other impending four being much better.

The Movie

Newt Scamander, the young man with the weird, amphibian name, the young man who wants to save all God’s creatures great and small.  Actually, I don’t know if he believes in God, do wizards go in for that sort of thing?  But Newt loves all Earth’s creations anyway, valuing the life of all animals, be they lovely or dangerous.  He is much like Hagrid in that mindset, not caring if something could possible kill or eat him, interested only in their safety and happiness.  Newt has amassed quite the collection of animals, not in order to set up a maniacal menagerie, but rather to release them into their proper environment, after he has cared for them and seen them fully prepared for life outside his magic suitcase, a bag that is so much more than it appears.  He keeps his zoo with him wherever he goes, and can enter into a giant realm of varying ecosystems at a moment’s notice to lovingly treat the injured, displaced, and afraid.

Sounds like a great guy, and so he is, but his obsession with creatures has blinded him to the safety of humans.  On a trip to New York from London in order, so he says, to purchase a rare species, Newt stumbles into a dangerous situation that his expertise may make him the perfect hero for, but that his odd case might make him the simple suspect of.  A deadly force has been terrorizing the city, and the local government thinks that Newt’s animals might be to blame.  A failed agent named Tina takes him into custody, only to find herself mixed up in whatever the bloody hell is going on.  Along with her sister and a confused Muggle, Newt and Tina must find the true culprit behind the attacks, capture it if they can, and at the same time find all the relatively harmless animals who really have escaped from Scamander’s case before they cause any real damage.

I don’t begrudge money-maker movies, even when it’s obvious, because we’re the audiences, we can choose not to see them, we don’t have to pay for a product that we can be fairly sure is tricking us into watching.  Create a universe, have a hit, and you’re pretty much set for life, because we are always game for another venture into a fantastic world that caught our attention before.  So I don’t blame J.K. for writing this screenplay, for expanding on our knowledge of the wizarding world, for taking our cash with a smile on her face.  But I do wish that she had been a bit more inventive with her story, something that was obviously made without that same magical fabric as Harry Potter.  It felt underdeveloped, like a plot thought of on a whim, and it never harnessed the power of the films that have come before, never convinced me that I should judge it solely on its own merit.  And if I had done, if I was able to step completely away, I think I’d be even harsher than I intent to be here.

Because, aside for Eddie Redmayne, who is a treasure, the only positives to this movie are the cool creatures and impressive computer images.  I like this universe, I wanted to see more, I got that and some really awesome visuals to boot, but, other than that and apart from Redmayne, almost everything else I can think of was lackluster.  The plot was silly, with an ending that took three seconds to think up and one minute of screen time.  The actors were third-rate, other than Colin Ferrell, who I respect immensely but who was given absolutely nothing to work with here.  Actual, there was an actress who stood out, but for all the wrong reasons, and that was Katherine Waterston.  She was completely lifeless, an awful heroine, and someone I hope to never see again.  She was bad in Inherent Vice, she’ll be bad in Alien: Covenant, and I wish she hadn’t had a place in this film.  Nothing about Fantastic Beasts seemed well thought out or well thought through, almost as if it was made for money alone without a care whether it was actually necessary to produce.

The Blu-ray

Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 (1080p HD 16×9) and using an Arri Alexa XT Studio camera with Panavision E- and G-Series lenses, the video quality of the film is top notch, there won’t be any disappointment there.  The incredible array of computer animation on display was breathtaking, as was each and every one of Scamander’s creatures, done with such an eye to detail and description.  The sets were brilliant, from NYC to the underground magical world, from inside Newt’s case to inside Tina’s apartment.  Care was placed on the visuals, that’s for sure, and you can feel Harry’s world coming through very strongly.

Audio – The Blu-ray was done in Dolby Atmos English, with an option of DTS-HA Master Audio English 5.1, English Descriptive Audio 5.1, Dolby Digital French 5.1, Spanish 5.1, and Portuguese.  Subtitles can be selected in English SDH, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.  The audio quality of the film receives high marks as well, both for its explosive sound effects and for its use of the theme music we’ve grown to enjoy coming out of this universe.  I always find the balance between dialogue and effects to be a bit action-heavy on Blu-rays, but that’s something most audience members have grown accustomed to.

Extras – There are a ton of special features on the Blu-ray disc, if you can’t get enough of this colossal creation.  Before Harry Potter: A New Era of Magic Begins! is a 15-minute behind-the-scenes and interviews segment.  Characters is a collection of five character studies.  Creatures is seven fascinating creature reports.  Design is six featurettes focused on bringing the film to life.  And there are eleven Deleted Scenes brought together for your enjoyment.

Final Thoughts

Rent It.  Judged as a bit of history from the world of Harry Potter, Fantastic Beasts should charm fans and ignite the old flames that appeared after reading the first books, or watching the first films.  It’s dessert to a starving fan, something many will gobble up, and I don’t blame them.  Beautiful scenes, stunning graphics, imaginative artistic; there is much to enjoy here.  But I can’t help also judge this story as its own feature, and in that way it failed.  The story was not well-written, the dialogue was not sharp, there are moments when I wondered why on Earth that just happened, and the entire project feels a little forced.  It’s a vehicle for the franchise, a way to make money, and I don’t blame it for that, but I also can’t only rave about its visuals, I need to mention its content as well, and that just wasn’t strong enough.  The video is wonderful, the audio solid, there are many extras, so the technical aspects of the project won’t let you down.  Just don’t expect Lord of the Rings, or even Sorcerer’s Stone, because Fantastic Beasts doesn’t have the same heart and won’t leave the same impression.

☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save


  • 0

DVD Review – Resistance

Category : DVD Review

Director: Amit Gupta

Starring: Andrea Riseborough, Tom Wlaschiha, Michael Sheen

Year: 2011

I can’t use the term “alternate history” without thinking of “alternative facts”, so there goes that innocence, thanks Trump.  It’s ironic that both terms mean fiction when one of them is supposed to mean truth, but to avoid getting political, I’ll attempt to slide past what my mind wants me to focus on and stick to the film at hand.  Alternate history is an entertaining genre, re-imagining the past and reshaping it into what might have been.  It’s almost a form of science fiction, minus the science, or at least has a multi-dimensional feel that I enjoy, an other-worlds-than-these atmosphere that I like woven into a historic drama, which I also like.  So the genre is a win-win; too bad this take on it is most definitely not.

The Movie

As WWII draws to a close, Germany is poised for victory.  D-Day has failed, the Allies have not retaken Europe, and Nazi forces are beginning to take over the civilized world.  They begin their occupation of Britain, an inexorable crawl that meets no battle, as a defeated England draws in on itself in an admission of defeat.  Entering the nation from the south and from the east, the Germans parade across the countryside in relative peace and order, exemplifying the unstoppable end.  The British government issues that no civilian should help or aid the occupying forces, that they should stay in their homes, that life goes on, but for those on the new “front”, choices are not so simple.

In one small village, the women of the farms wake up one morning to discover that all their men have disappeared.  The assumption is that they have joined in the resistance in the hills, refusing to sit and watch enemy troops take control of their country.  But no man said a word to his wife, so that no clue could be given to the Nazis, and now the women must live under German control alone and unsure.  As winter approaches, a small German military band stationed in the village begins to help with the farm work, the saving of animals and crops, the protection of the local people.  They seem to want to sit out the rest of the war, to forget that they are enemy soldiers, to keep a low profile from the watchful eyes of the Gestapo.  But can the villagers accept these men, can they forget their own kin living somewhere in the forests, and can life really go on after so much war?

The idea behind this film is fairly brilliant.  We’ve seen occupation stories centered around the Holocaust, even around Nazis in France, but I’ve never come across an alternate history based on the possibility of occupied Britain.  I’m sure there are enough true stories from this time period to fill a million films, but it was nice to see something unique in its content and its fiction, creating a new way to look at WWII for those who just can’t get enough.  Giving a face to those who suffered from this war in this way, even a fictionalized face, was intriguing, as was the attention given to the German soldiers as well, painting them as people rather than uniforms.  Shooting a gun is easy, creating relationships with sworn enemies is something else entirely, a concept this film plays with in a very imaginative way.

And that’s where the positives end, other than the first 10 minutes of the film.  As we enter the village and discover that the men have gone, we meet the women who are left, a few underground resistance fighters, and the Nazi troops stationed here.  These characters are fascinating at first in their complexity, but quickly lose any magic as the film trudges on.  It quickly becomes one of the dullest war movies you will ever see, and I don’t mean because it lacks big explosions, but because it also lacks any real reason to watch.  There’s a pseudo-love story, a cameo by Michael Sheen, some walks in the woods, and all the while audiences have got to be wishing that someone would put this story out of its misery.  It’s both boring and banal, a failure to create a stirring drama based on the curious what-ifs of history.  Don’t be fooled by the set up; the rest of the show offers us nothing.

The DVD

Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 Widescreen and shot using Panavision cameras and lenses, the video quality of this film is nowhere near the strength that it ought to be, failing to visually capture the locale or the time period in a way that pleases audiences or lives up to the potential of the technology at hand.

Audio – In the setup menu, there is a choice between Stereo and 5.1 Surround Sound, with an option of turning on English subtitles.  That’s it as far as the sound is concerned, and the music is even less exciting, adding to the film in no way whatsoever.

Extras – There are no special features on this disc.

Final Thoughts

Rent It.  With a good concept but very little else, this is a movie better skipped by most, but something that might just interest enough aficionados for a recommendation that you don’t write it off completely.  The alternate history aspect is very cool, as is the beginning set up, but the fact that the rest of the action seems to be a race to rock bottom destroys any credibility the movie earns early on.  The technical aspects are all dubs, from the audio/visual to the extras.  Only WWII buffs or slow romance fiends would find a spark here, and I imagine even the more critical among them would recognize that the meat of the film is not of a very high quality.

☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ – Extras

☆ – Replay

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save


  • 0

DVD Review – Maximum Ride

Category : DVD Review

Director: Jay Martin

Starring: Allie Marie Evans, Patrick Johnson, Gavin Lewis

Year: 2016

Maximum Ride might very well be the worst movie I have ever seen, which is saying something, given the terrible films I have watched over the course of my critical career.  Any of us who have sat through the four Sharknado flops know just how bad cinema can be, but at least there’s a way to defend that franchise, at least you know they were making their movies solely for entertainment purposes, with no desire to be taken seriously in the least.  After seeing Maximum Ride, you get the sense that someone worked with intention, with a purpose, with a thought that what they were creating might actually be good.  Well, it isn’t, it’s among the most awful things my eyes have ever witnessed, so back to the drawing board.

The Movie

Kept in an underground prison called The School, six gifted children are treated like animals, given a barrage of strange tests, live in cages, and don’t know the world outside at all.  Perhaps they are even test tube babies, born in a lab, and engineered with odd powers of mind and body.  Whatever the truth, Max and the others know only that they aren’t exactly human, though what having wings makes them is anyone’s guess.  As Max grows, she becomes the favorite of the leader of the researchers, a man named Jeb, a man who is like a father figure to them all, though he has a real son he basically ignores.  One night, Jeb even breaks them out of their confinement, rushing them away to a life in hiding.

The six children grow up in the mountains, living in fear of location and recapture.  Max is the leader and the mother figure of the group.  Fang is her right hand man and possible love interest.  Iggy is blind but has a sensitive insight.  Nudge is gaining in power but is also chafing at the seclusion of their hiding.  Gazzy is young and super-intelligent, a master builder.  And Angel is his little sister, a girl with powers of the mind that no one understands.  The older three can fly with powerful black wings, and when Jeb disappears and Angel is taken, they set out to solve the mystery of their creation, only to uncover more questions than answers.  As they travel cross-country, they must work together to find out the truth and to defeat the power that wants to own their souls.

This film is based on a series of books written by author James Patterson, who Stephen King calls a “terrible writer”.  Based on this movie, I can only guess that he definitely is.  There are nine books in his Maximum Ride series, and you would have to pay me a million dollars to read them all.  It’s the dumbest premise I’ve ever heard, and obviously doesn’t translate to the screen either.  Six kids mixed with birds in the lab and tested for who cares what reason; no thank you.  The story makes absolutely no sense, I actually don’t want to know why they are what they are, and the two writers of the screenplay weren’t able to adapt the stories in a successful manner, or else that goal was completely unattainable since the source material sucks.

Basically nothing happens during the course of the film.  I hate to be exaggerant and overly insulting, but really, nothing happens, and at the end you understand that you just wasted a piece of your life.  Story-wise, this is obviously a setup for more plot to come, but I can’t imagine that anyone would have the nerve to make another film in this series.  The actors are beyond awful to the point of incredulity, the special effects are 3rd-grade level, and I could make up a skit right now that I could perform in my basement that would be more entertaining than this film.  Someone actually made this, someone actually spent time and money wanting this to become an actual film that real people watched, that’s what blows my mind.

The DVD

Video – With an aspect ratio of 16×9 Widescreen, the video quality and special effects are laughable, at best.  It’s among the worst you’ll ever see, and the team that put together the technical aspects of this film should be embarrassed.

Audio – The DVD was done in English 5.1 Dolby Digital, with an option of Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.  Subtitles are available in English, French, and Spanish.  The audio quality is as bad as the video and can be immediately ridiculed.

Extras – There are no special features on this disc.

Final Thoughts

Skip It.  I can only imagine that this film was going for a Buffy the Vampire Slayer feel but completely missed the mark.  There is a touch of that melodrama, but even that was done poorly, failing to be over-the-top enough to even be fun.  This movie is serious, they’re being serious, that’s what’s shocking, that anyone in their right mind could have watched this final product and thought, “yeah, we did it”.  I am embarrassed for anyone with their name attached to this project, as it really is one of the worst films I have ever had the misfortune to come across.  The video is terrible, the audio the same, and their are no extras, so don’t look to cool technical features to save this awful story.  Stay as far away as possible, and don’t tell me if they ever make a sequel.

☆ – Content

☆ – Video

☆ – Audio

☆ – Extras

☆ – Replay

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save


  • 0

DVD Review – Neither Heaven Nor Earth

Category : DVD Review

Director: Clement Cogitore

Starring: Jeremie Renier, Kevin Azais, Finnegan Oldfield

Year: 2015

A war drama with a religious backdrop, Neither Heaven Nor Earth is part reality, part fantasy, and completely devoted to shedding light on the fragility of the human spirit.  On the surface, it’s a look at the lives and fears of the modern soldier, but in its depths, it’s a peek into his soul, revealing the doubts that lay so tenuously there.  Director Clement Cogitore, who makes his feature-length debut with this film, uses the harsh environment of war to bring the spiritual world to life, putting the stories on top of each other in a unique fashion in order to make several points.  That the movie itself can’t stand completely on its own is a problem, but the message comes across regardless, and is powerful enough to be heard.

The Movie

In Afghanistan during the current war is a French outpost whose mission is to thwart the Taliban and to protect the local villagers.  This group of soldiers have grown close during their weeks in the field, have bonded over their shared experiences and their common loneliness.  Living in a hostile environment completely cut off from your family and the world you once knew can be a difficult thing, a daily grind of checkpoints and running for cover that will eventually wear down even the sharpest warrior.  Captain Antares Bonassieu keeps his men on task, tries to keep them motivated, and cares for each of them, promising to never leave any of them alone or behind, forming a brotherhood that should withstand any attack.

But when first animals and then men begin to disappear from a hilltop watch post, the strength of these ties will be tested.  At first, Antares is convinced that his men have been kidnapped by local Taliban forces led by a man called the Sultan.  He questions the villagers, demands answers, and even threatens to withdraw French protection if they will not reveal the nature of the mysterious disappearances.  Then, in an unprecedented show of allegiance, the Taliban leader himself reveals that his men are missing as well.  The locals begin to tell a story of Allah’s country, a place where sleepers are taken away to be with God, a fanciful tale that fits the details, but is too ridiculous to be true, at least to those who refuse to believe.

The first 3/4 of the movie are solid, the last 1/4 a letdown, which is far too typical of a film by a fledgling director.  Cogitore also wrote the screenplay, so it’s obvious that he had a great idea, formed a strong story in his head, was able to execute it to a certain point, but just didn’t have the means to seal it into a perfect package.  He took an interesting plot, set it in a chaotic locale, had all the dramatic elements ready to go, and pulled off most of the tricks with no problem.  Where he failed was in not just the ending, but in the closing, as he was unable to keep momentum going when it was needed most in a movie that wasn’t long enough to require more editing, but also wasn’t quick enough to withstand a director who may not have been quite ready for the big screen.

The war element of the film was excellent, painting a perfectly accurate picture of life for a soldier in Afghanistan; the weight lifting, the boredom, the patrols, the villagers, the sheep, the infrequent calls home, the hierarchy of command.  I was intrigued and impressed by that part of the story, its details and its devotion.  The fantastic pieces of the film were nice as well; the ancient stories, Allah in the desert, the mystery of faith vs fact.  These two parts just didn’t mesh the way they needed to if the entire project was to be a rampant success, and the director didn’t put a bow on the action as the film drew to a close, instead handling it rather clumsily and letting the pace drop off.  Neither Heaven Nor Earth is a good feature without being a great one, a nice idea more than it was wonderfully done.

The DVD

Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 Widescreen, the video quality of the film won’t be something that blows any audience away.  When the scenes are in the desert in daylight, there’s some nice color and clarity.  When the scenes are in the dark, much of the footage is shown using heat sensing technology or night vision, giving the film a military air, but not really allowing it to shine visually.

Audio – The DVD was done in 5.1 Surround Sound, with a choice of Stereo.  The film is in French with English subtitles, which can be turned on or off.  Also, the director’s commentary can be accessed from this menu.  The sound quality of the film is fine, not memorable, and will fall into the same category as the video; not something that was paid much attention.

Extras – There are only a few special features on the disc, beginning with a bonus short film called Among Us, a 30 minute story about Amin, a young illegal immigrant, and his experiences with the other men who are also trying to reach safety.  There are seven trailers to watch: Neither Heaven Nor Earth, My King, Men Go to Battle, The Ardennes, The Quiet Earth, Schneider vs. Bax, Sea Fog.  Lastly, you can read a paragraph about Film Movement for more information about the group.

Final Thoughts

Recommended.  For a foreign film about the complications of modern battle, check out A War, a film that is far superior to Neither Heaven Nor Earth and is telling a similar story, minus the supernatural element.  It’s that biblical/religious undertone that makes this movie unique, and credit should be given for an original story that was turned into a good movie.  Problem is, there wasn’t enough talent and/or experience to mold it into a great movie, more’s the pity, because there is definitely a solid message here that deserves to be heard.  The video and the audio were only OK, there are a few extras on the disc, but the technical aspects of the film can mostly be ignored.  The film itself should not be, even though it is imperfect, so put it somewhere in the middle of your list and watch some day without very high expectations.

☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save


  • 0

DVD Review – Desierto

Category : DVD Review

Director: Jonas Cuaron

Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Jeffrey Dean Morgan

Year: 2015

Jonas Cuaron is the son of acclaimed director Alfonso Cuaron, which becomes an ‘ah ha’ moment after you watch Desierto, dislike it, and wonder how such a young guy got such a stellar duo in his swing-and-miss film.  That this movie misses the mark will become readily apparent to most audiences; it simply isn’t very good.  Which makes you wonder, perhaps unfairly, whether Jonas got a leg up in making an ultimately poor-quality film with high-quality actors because he’s Alfonso’s son.  Again, perhaps that’s unfair or simply rude speculation, but it’s a question that pops up fairly quickly after watching the film and then understanding who the filmmaker is.  The cast deserved a better movie and a better director; we’ll see if he gets another shot.

The Movie

Desperate to make the incredibly difficult (and of course illegal) journey from Mexico into the United States, a group of people with nothing to lose travel cross-country to reach a new home and, hopefully, a better life.  For various reasons, these refugees/illegals/aliens, whatever term you choose to use, cannot cross at the border, won’t be allowed, and so risk the dangerous trek across the desert for a paid price and with no guarantee.  When this particular group’s hired truck breaks down, they are forced to go on by foot, traveling through the badlands and hoping to avoid notice.  The border patrol are ever-present, and the ranchers aren’t friendly either, so off they go into the wilderness, with nowhere left to turn.

One native in particular, one very angry, lonely man, has taken it upon himself to rid his once-loved home of uninvited guests.  He sets out hunting with his faithful dog Tracker, picking off rabbits, sure, but he doesn’t become shy when he discovers Mexicans crossing through the scrub with all their possessions strapped to their backs.  Shockingly, he begins to pick off the travelers one by one, shooting them down as if they were pheasants in a field.  A group of five, who were slow and had begun to straggle behind the main body, turn and run, hoping beyond hope that this crazed man and his dog might leave them in peace, perhaps might lose them in the canyons, or maybe might even remember that they are humans, not creatures that deserve eliminating from this land.

The positives first, and they are mostly Bernal.  Curious audiences will quickly wonder why he’s even here; his talent rises above the film from the very start.  He’s simply better than this, has done so much better than this, and was even making films at the same time as this one that required much more concentration and skill.  Perhaps he knew he could syphon off a little for a movie that wouldn’t demand much other than a few hot days on set, and then again maybe he signed on because of Alfonso Cuaron.  Whatever the reason, he was the bright spot, and we can assume he saw this dub coming a mile away, but just did it any way.  I also enjoyed Morgan as a villain, he fits that role very well, has played it before, and could almost phone in a performance, apart from what must have been a fairly difficult location at which to work.

Bernal and Morgan were solid in their parts, even though they can’t have been forced to stretch their abilities much.  For one, their lines were infrequent and mostly terrible.  I understand the simplicity of the movie, I appreciate that the story is self-contained, doesn’t need flash blacks and dream sequences.  But Cuaron forgot to write in drama, and then forgot to direct.  There were moments that you could pin as dramatic, but they were completely recycled and didn’t bring anything new to our screens.  The film felt extremely amateur, from the action sequences to the ending, coming across as an experiment gone wrong rather than a name film that we were supposed to take seriously.

The Blu-ray

Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (1080p HD Widescreen), the video quality of this film is good for the medium, and probably should be considered one of the highlights.  The desert was shot beautifully, with breathtaking images all around, and you could really almost feel the heat.  The crisp picture was a nice foundation, though the rest of the movie never could live up to the caliber of the Blu-ray disc.

Audio – The Blu-ray was done in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, with an option of Descriptive Video Service Dolby Digital 2.0.  Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish, and French.  The majority of the movie is in Spanish subtitles, with only a smattering of English.  It felt backward somehow, and a smarter way to make audiences feel the language barriers and the differences inherent between the hero and the villain must have been out there, Cuaron just didn’t catch it.

Extras – The film’s bonus feature is the ability to watch with commentary from director/writer/producer Jonas Cuaron.

Final Thoughts

Rent It.  In a strange paradox, so many common theatrical elements seemed to be presented in this film, and yet it seemed never to grasp what makes a movie a movie.  A backstory was attempted, but failed.  Empathy was meant to be shared, but never developed.  The action was supposed to be exciting, but instead it constantly fell flat and felt forced.  Desierto is neither believable nor well-made, instead trudging along as a story about the hearts of men without delving into those same hearts and shedding light of what lies hidden.  The video was quiet solid, the audio was OK, and there isn’t much in the extras department.  I was pretty disappointed in this film, to say the least, and I put a lot of blame on Cuaron’s shoulder.  He’ll have to make up for it in his next project if I’m to eat my words, but as it stands, I have my doubts about his capabilities.

☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ – Replay

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save