Category Archives: DVD Review

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DVD Review – Destination Wedding

Category : DVD Review

Director: Victor Levin

Starring: Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves

Year: 2018

There exists a group of fans and critics who remember the duo of Ryder and Reeves from Bram Stoker’s Dracula and have loved them ever since.  Reeves has had the better career, Ryder has had her moments, both are currently working hard (John Wick, Stranger Things), and here they are together again in a romantic comedy that relies almost expressly on their likeability factor and their chemistry.  Problem is, there also exists a contingent (of which I am a part) that never thought these two were capable actors in any way, that never wanted to watch them together once more, and that has been proven right by this incredibly awful attempt at cinema.

The Movie

Lindsay and Frank have both been invited to a destination wedding in central California, and they both would rather die than go.  But they each have their reasons for attending, reasons for showing their faces in a place they’d much rather avoid, and will go in spite of their disgust.  Lindsay dated the groom and wants some closure after he broke her heart only weeks before their own engagement.  She can’t stand him, but also loves him, and can’t stay away from the wedding that she know will destroy her.  Frank is the groom’s brother, but that doesn’t mean they’re close.  He hates his sibling, never wants to see him again, but feels obligated by the duty inherent to his birth to at least show up.

Despite their shared reluctance to travel to celebrate the wedding of a couple they’d rather never hear from again, both Lindsay and Frank make the flight, and, as chance would have it, they meet.  They sit next to one another, they share a shuttle, their hotel rooms are connected; it seems like fate has brought them together, and what an unhappy duo they make.  Lindsay can’t get over her ex, makes terrible decisions, and is sure she’ll never be content.  Frank is a career pessimist, breaks life down into unbearable moments, and hates other humans.  That these people, connected by other people, would be the specific people for each other is unbelievably hard to believe, but love is most definitely strange.

I relish saying “I told you so” and will say it as loud as is needed; I just don’t have anyone specific to direct it to.  Neither Ryder nor Reeves is talented enough to be anything other than a footnote, and it’s shocking that they’ve made careers off of that fact.  Ryder has had a resurgence with Stranger Things, but she’s the absolute worst part of that show, which is obvious to anyone who is really watching.  Reeves worked well in both John Wick movies, but that’s an exception to the rule; he most often is simply silly.  Both come together here and neither has the talent to carry the story through to the end, failing to make even a short run time bearable in the least.

Destination Wedding was attempting to be a Woody Allen movie, one in which the main characters simply converse and expound and sound witty, which is the problem with this casting, since neither lead actor has the ability to do any of that.  Woody Allen 30 years ago could have been in this film, and his costar could have been any number of great actresses, but this casting simply didn’t work, and so neither did the movie.  It was short, sweet, funny at times, never hard to watch, but it required audiences to come in loving the leads and forgiving them their inabilities; if that’s not you there’s no way to enjoy this film.  Clever writing can’t save actual execution, and the result isn’t pretty.

The DVD

Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 (Anamorphic Widescreen), the video quality of the DVD is much better than the movie itself.  The locale is beautiful, the picture is nice, and the cinematography is simple; this film is enjoyable to see, just not to watch.

Audio – The disc is done in English Dolby Digital 5.1, with an option of Descriptive Video Service.  Subtitles are available in English SDH.  Even the music sounded like a Woody Allen film, with a constant background track that kept the mood casual.

Extras – There are no special features available.

Final Thoughts

Rent It.  I could get behind this idea, this script, this comedy, but not these actors; that’s where the filmmakers messed up.  Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti just performed magic in Private Life, a very heavy drama with beautiful moments of humor; imagine what they could have done with this film and these parts.  They could have been hilarious and perfect, they could have called it Sideways 2: On Location, and all my dreams could have come true.  Instead, Destination Wedding is what it is, a movie that’s deceptively appealing but desperately awful.  The video is nice, the audio is quaint, there aren’t any special features, so the technical side is a mixed bag.  I just wish different choices had been made, because this movie had potential; the result was simply poor.

☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ – Extras

☆ – Replay

 

 


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DVD Review – Go Tell the Spartans

Category : DVD Review

Director: Ted Post

Starring: Burt Lancaster, Craig Wasson, Jonathan Goldsmith

Year: 1978

Ted Post liked to direct Clint Eastwood in the 60s and early 70s; I guess that would have been like directing Tom Hanks in the 90s, an almost guaranteed success and a huge crutch for any filmmaker.  Rawhide, Hang ‘Em High, Magnum Force; that is some of Post’s best work, and he threw in Beneath the Planet of the Apes for good measure.  But the magic would run out when Post moved toward the end of his career, and Go Tell the Spartans is definitely not an example of his prime years.  Burt Lancaster and Co. couldn’t deliver a strong enough product to support the message that was being relayed, an expose on war that made its point without making the grade.

The Movie

The French failed to control a volatile situation in Vietnam, and now a rebel force is fighting the Southern government, a communist regime rising up to threaten the democracies of the free world.  At least, that’s how the situation was viewed by the powers that be, and the Unites States felt like it must act in order to keep the Viet Cong from taking control of Southeast Asia.  Military units were sent in to support the friendly Southern government and to assist them in taking down the rebels, but the guerilla warfare of the jungles takes its toll on men not used to the grueling terrain and the ever-changing politics, proving that this budding war would be a quagmire without a discernible end.

Major Baker is in charge of a rag-tag unit deep in country, where attacks come from all angles and from the least likely of places.  He recently sent a squad to control an abandoned village, a spot that could prove vital to the strategy of the war, or could simply anger the Cong and force them to annihilate the US force on grounds of principle.  It’s a thankless and pointless job, sending men to their deaths fighting a war that isn’t their own, but, well, someone’s gotta do it.  Baker’s men include Courcey the draftee, Oleonowski the vet, Olivetti the right hand man, and a corporal named Abraham Lincoln, all of whom will be lucky to return to base alive.

Post’s earlier work showed talent, but this late addition offers nothing other than a weakly told story about a fight we all know should never have been fought.  Perhaps in 1978 the message was a bit more powerful, a veteran director painting the Vietnam War so bleakly and so pathetically, but now it simply seems like a waste of film.  There isn’t a personal story here, not really, it’s more a commentary on how stupid things were there back then, on how little the military knew what they were doing and why they were doing it.  Again, not an ah-ha moment anymore, the consensus seems to be that the war was one we entered without much thought and then lied about for years, so this film may have lost some of its potency over time.

Burt Lancaster sure had; he was 65 at the time and showed every year of it, not succeeding as believable for a minute.  And his dialogue might have been even worse than his presence, not that his lines were his fault, they simply fell flat on the dirty floor and lay their dying while audiences tried to understand why anyone would ever say them.  The rest of the cast wasn’t much better: Craig Wasson who would go to be in A Nightmare of Elm Street 3, Marc Singer is best known for The Beastmaster, and Jonathan Goldsmith, oddly enough, would become The Most Interesting Man In The World for Dos Equis.  Weird, but their performances here were ever stranger, as none of them ever got into the groove, always making the movie feel much more like a skit, not something to be taken seriously, although that was obviously the unearned objective.

The DVD

Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (Widescreen), the video quality is poor even when taking the transfer and the era into account, a grainy mistake that was shot about as well as it was performed.  They tried their best to bring the war to life, and the message was heard, but the visuals along the way were either amateur or simply badly done.

Audio – The DVD was done in English, and that’s all we get as far as audio, information, languages, or subtitles.  There is a bit of music to help move things along, but it’s in no way memorable.  Some Vietnam movies use protest songs as a way to help audiences feel the time, but this film came from a different angle, which was probably a mistake.

Extras – The only special features are five interviews with members of the cast and crew: Ted Post, Marc Singer, Jonathan Goldsmith, Joe Unger, David Clennon.

Final Thoughts

Rent ItGo Tell the Spartans fails as a war drama, an expose, a period peek, whatever genre you want to fit it in, and there weren’t many redeeming qualities to save the day.  The point was clear, I’ll give them that, but it wasn’t delivered well, and no one in the cast had the power to force the film to be any better than its low ceiling dictated very early on.  Even the Spartan reference was weak and ill-used, and should probably have been left on the cutting room floor.  The video is no good, the audio is nothing remarkable, and there aren’t many bonus features, so it’s best to ignore the technical aspects of this movie, since it barely has any.  Best to ignore the entire project I think; there are better versions of this idea out there, and they are numerous.

☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ – Extras

☆ – Replay

 

 


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DVD Review – Country

Category : DVD Review

Director: Richard Pearce

Starring: Jessica Lange, Sam Shepard, Wilford Brimley

Year: 1984

For Country, Jessica Lange was nominated for a Best Leading Actress Academy Award, ultimately losing out to Sally Field in Places in the Heart, five years after she won her only other Oscar for Norma Rae.  Three of the five films in the category in 1985 were about farmers, families, floods, failed crops, that old chestnut, and the other two were period pieces, so there was some tight competition in a tight window, and who really stands a chance against Field anyway, she’s so damned likeable.  Lange has had her chances to shine, and she’s been a part of many an iconic film, but perhaps it’s right to consider this movie as one of her strongest examples of talent; a simple-on-the-surface role that couldn’t have been so simple to play, a character that’s at once an everyman and an everywoman.

The Movie

The life of an Iowa farm family is anything but glamorous.  They work all day, all seasons, pulling in just enough money from crops and livestock to stay alive themselves, to warm their homes and feed their children.  One bad crop puts you behind, one broken tool costs you time and money, one sick kid destroys your savings, and nothing gives you the excuse to quit working, each morning it’s back to the grind.  The father reaps the corn, the grandfather drives alongside him, the son learns the trade, the mother takes care of the home, and the daughter takes care of the littlest ones; it’s a grueling life, a gray-brown life, but one that some were born to live, having been raised on the land and having known from their first steps on it that it would always be their home.

For the Ivys, tough times are only getting tougher, and they aren’t the only farmers to feel the steady trickle of stability eek away under their feet.  After a lack of rain and a bad storm, the Ivy’s corn crop isn’t what they expected it to be, and the money it brings in just isn’t enough.  The bank is tired of constantly handing out more loans to farmers whose farms aren’t turning a profit, and so they finally put their feet down.  This means that Gil and Jewell Ivy will either have to come up with the money to pay off their loans, sell some of their land and equipment, or move off the farm, a place that’s been their family’s home for generations.  If all the locals could come together and fight the banks, they might be able to force some change, but that will take grit and determination; luckily farming folk don’t lack either.

Both Jessica Lange and Sam Shepard were relative newcomers to the screen in 1984, although they had both previously been in Frances in 1982, for which Lange was, again, nominated for Best Leading Actress.  But other than that, Lange had King Kong and Shepard had The Right Stuff, neither had become a big star yet, but both would show up for this niche drama and perform wonderfully.  The main thing they did right was to play their parts understated, which was smart, and which fit the mood and times better than a melodramatic interpretation.  They were convincing as farmers, as Americana, and representatives of a way of life that was slowly dying.  In a time when films loved focusing on social justice, and especially on farmers and workers and the like, Country fit right in and its leads did it justice.

Wilford Brimley even makes an appearance and does very well; I’ll always love him for Our House, a 2-season family-oriented TV show that I watched when I was little.  Looking back, I watched far too much Touched by an Angel-type television; it exposed me to certain actors and a certain style I guess, but I doubt if that crap was ultimately good for me.  Anyway, moving on, I think the story in Country absolutely does have a positive message worth hearing, mostly, and should be remembered for what it did well.  It’s a simple movie, uncomplicated and focused, giving us one direction to lean in and one family to love.  In that way, it succeeded, but watching it all these years later, it is a little simple, a little sappy, and doesn’t stand up perfectly straight.  You give films like these a pass because they’re emotional and they’re dated, but then you remember that there are magnificent movies from ever era, perfect pieces of cinema from every year, and perhaps being forgiving just because, to something from 1984 (which boasts Amadeus, The Natural, Karate Kid, and The Killing Fields), is going a little too easy.

The Blu-ray

Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (1920x1080p), the video quality of the Blu-ray is poor but rich enough, if you’ll excuse the semi-related pun.  The quality is by no means impressive, but audiences will understand what year they’re watching and how technology has changed over time.  At least the transfer was done properly, with no glaring issues, so the film watches as it would have at the time and doesn’t fail its standard.

Audio – The disc was done in English, with an option of English subtitles, and available audio commentary by film historian Lee Gambin.  That’s it, no other languages or subtitles or options, you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.  The sound is fine, keeping everything in mind, you won’t expect or receive better, and it’s nice that there weren’t significant problems in the transfer, so cling to that.

Extras – The only bonus features are four trailers for films from this company.

Final Thoughts

Recommended.  While Country isn’t an amazing film on its own, it’s at least a small sliver of cinematic history to enjoy and reflect upon, a movie that worked and had a message and tried its best 35 years ago, which is not nothing.  It features solid performances and a simply story, so you won’t hear many complaints from me; how many modern movies can honestly claim the same?  But its also far from perfection, an uncomplicated tale of an American life that we all know exists and aren’t super-excited to watch films about.  The video is par for the era, the audio is lackluster, and there aren’t many special features, so leave the technical aspects behind and focus on the content, which isn’t terrible.  Lange is good, Shepard is good, the plot is good-ish; sometimes you can’t give a product your ringing endorsement, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hold some intrinsic worth.

☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ – Vide0

☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 


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DVD Review – Gross Anatomy

Category : DVD Review

Director: Thom Eberhardt

Starring: Matthew Modine, Daphne Zuniga, Christine Lahti

Year: 1989

It doesn’t get more 80s than Gross Anatomy, even if it was released at the end of 1989; the early 90s were just the late 80s anyway.  This era gem captures the essence of the decade, from the mood to the music, and that’s why it remains an icon to this day.  It isn’t perfect, especially looking back on it 30 years down the road, but it retains enough energy to overcome, and that’s what matters.  All we’re asking for from this cult classic is that, when we watch it back, it holds up to what we remember, and that its pieces are strong enough to enjoy after all this time.  Luckily, Gross Anatomy has lasting power, at least mostly if not completely, and is still quite fun to watch.

The Movie

Joe Slovak is just a poor, working-class kid who wants to go to college, but not just college, med school, which is a whole other beast.  Joe’s grades are good, but they could be better, as he always seems to have one foot out the door and his mind on fun instead of the task at hand.  He says he wants to be a doctor, and he has the ability to be one, but he doesn’t want to study, doesn’t want to take things seriously, and perhaps he’s holding himself back out of fear of failure or insecurity of mind.  He’ll have to bend his will towards making the grade, because the competition is stiff, and the stiffs in the laboratory in the toughest class in school aren’t any easier.

Gross Human Anatomy will prove to be a career-wrecker, and Joe and the other students break upon the course like a ship on a hidden rock, splintering apart as they try to save each other from drowning.  Joe’s roommate is David, a neurotic perfectionist who measures his days in 15-minute increments.  His group mates are Miles and Kim, two very different personalities but two hard workers.  And then there’s Laurie, the last member of the cohort, who Joe has his eye on from the first day they meet.  She doesn’t want anything to get in the way of her goals, he refuses to have any; they aren’t exactly a match made in heaven.  But their training will being them together, and they’ll need one another to survive the grueling test that comes before they can call themselves doctors.

I remembered Gross Anatomy as an 80s time capsule, but I had forgotten its status as an expose on the medical profession, at least on how hard it is to get there.  They touch on a lot of things; speed use to stay awake to study, the pressures of parents and expectations to succeed, the complications of family and life outside school, juggling relationships and romances, the taxing hours of study and of work, the near-impossible tests, the class work, the rigor of the process.  It’s a heavy movie when viewed from that angle, a real thought piece on what we put students through on their way to take care of us.  Is the cost too much?  It’s a profession that we can’t do without, but how we treat those who wish to become our healers isn’t something to be proud of.

And then there’s the era element of the movie, the fun and sometimes silliness that we remember it for, how it entertains us with its dated feel and cheesy moments.  The music is great, and by great I mean terrible.  It’s awful and awesome, which describes most 80s songs; it’s a style you either love or hate I guess.  The clothes, the conversations, the overacting, the editing; it’s quintessential for when it was released, and that’s why we still enjoy it.  The worst part, and what sticks out like a sore thumb, is the acting.  Modine is OK, he was in his element, but god Daphne Zuniga was horrendous.  Every scene she was in, and she was in many, was brought down by her inability to even compose simple sentences like a normal human.  She peaked in Spaceballs, I guess, but nearly killed this movie with her talent vacuum.  Still, you can watch for what the movie is worth, it battles against its own inadequacies fairly well, and remains a cult classic for a reason.

The Blu-ray

Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (1920x1080p) and shot using a Panavision Panaflex camera, the video quality of the Blu-ray is what you’d expect from an 80s flick transferred onto a medium that it was never meant to appear on.  The picture isn’t terrible, it just isn’t wonderful, which we all will forgive, knowing that the technology 30 years ago wasn’t what it is today.  There aren’t any frightening flaws, so the video gets a pass.

Audio – The disc was done in English DTS, and that’s all we get.  No subtitles, no other languages, and the soundtrack is only good because it’s a throwback.  There is a theme song, and it’s probably the worst music you’ve ever heard, so there’s that.

Extras – The only special features on the Blu-ray are Audio Commentary by director Thom Eberhardt and four trailers.

Final Thoughts

Recommended.  It was refreshing to watch Gross Anatomy and to find out that there was more than I remember to the meat of the story.  There were some serious issues approached by the end, and I have to imagine there was a significant amount of research put into the plot, so I applaud this film for putting in the work.  It’s also gloriously 80s, if that’s your thing, so that’s a whole separate level to enjoy.  The acting is mostly pathetic but passable, except for Daphne Zuniga, who was absolutely abysmal.  The video is fine for the era, the audio is comical, and there aren’t many bonus features, so look elsewhere for technical marvels.  But allow yourself to be entertained by this cult classic, because it really does have more to offer than simple nostalgia.

☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 


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DVD Review – Goldstone

Category : DVD Review

Director: Ivan Sen

Starring: Aaron Pedersen, Alex Russell, Jacki Weaver, David Wenham

Year: 2016

Goldstone was out in theatres in Australia two years before it reached the US and, although I didn’t know it at the time, two years is far too long to wait on something so wonderful.  This film is a followup to director Ivan Sen’s other Detective Jay Swan story, Mystery Road, which was both a movie and then a six-episode mini-series.  The character lives on here, but if you can’t get your hands on the original material, this plot is independently strong, it doesn’t require any foreknowledge to enjoy its quality.  Goldstone has more than enough quality to spare, in all areas, and if you, like me, didn’t see this project coming, you’ll be blown away by its incredible, voracious nature.

The Movie

Josh Waters is a young, local cop stationed in Goldstone, a fly speck of a town in the bush of Australia where nothing important happens except the mining, and no trouble ever pops up except from the miners.  The town has very few people and only two real businesses; the mining company, which brings the men in to work, and the brothel bar, which keeps the men happy.  Josh is really only around to make sure that everything runs smoothly, and the mayor makes sure to grease his wheels with offers of as much money as will keep him silent about the more clandestine actions of the corporation that she’s tied to in more ways than one.  Josh is fairly clean but also doesn’t want to cause trouble, so he let’s the little things float past, without spending too much time worrying whether of not they are perfectly moral.

But the dirt that’s been swirling around the whole operation is about to clog the works in the form of a missing persons detective, Jay Swan, who’s in town searching for a lost girl.  He stumbles upon a trafficking ring that’s been going on so long that no one even thinks twice about its legality, and that’s not even the worst secret in Goldstone.  The mayor and the mining manager are into something twisted, requiring them pay off the Aboriginal leaders of the area in order to keep the ball rolling.  Jay has nothing to lose, he’s burned all of his bridges and is beyond caring, but Josh has a career to think of, and starting an investigation to take down all the local big shots might be beyond his scope.  Regardless, trouble is coming, and these two men had best be prepared, or they will find themselves on the wrong end of a gun sight.

Goldstone may only seem like Wind River 2: Bandits in the Bush, but that’s an oversimplification; Goldstone was released in Australia in 2016, a year before Wind River was released here, it just took the former a couple years to reach the States.  But be glad that it eventually did, because it’s not often that we are given such an extraordinary gift, and it’s not every day that a story from this genre touches the level of quality that this film was able to reach.  Neo-Western need not apply only to American pictures, and there’s no better place to set one than in the bush, an almost unpopulated desert landscape where rules are enforced by the very few and followed by even fewer.  At least fictionally, I’m not calling Australia a lawless country, but its history and its remote locations allow for these plots to be believable, much like the mountainous, western United States, past or present.

But beyond the inherent Aussie grittiness of this film, which can only take it so far, the execution and the delivery matched the potential of the project, reaching as close to the ceiling as it could go, and almost breaking through to the other side, where storied movies live.  Goldstone is a right choice wherever you look, from the characters to the acting, from the cinematography to the action placed therein.  As I said before, you don’t need to see the other Jay Swan stories, this one holds its own extremely well, the plot sizzling with anticipation and with danger, with no backstory needed.  Pedersen and Russell are perfect in their roles, as are Weaver and Wenham supporting, each lending the other credit and helping to create a fascinating mosaic on the bedrock of this complicated land.  Aboriginal independence, innocence lost, good vs evil, activity vs apathy; there isn’t a theme too deep for this film, and it is never afraid to ask audiences the hard questions.  The music, the still shots, the landscape, the mood; everything works and nothing is left to chance, each detail is orchestrated just so.  Goldstone may end up being one of the best of the year, and we never saw it coming, which makes it all the sweeter.

The Blu-ray

Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (16×9 Widescreen) and shot using a Red Epic camera, the video quality of the Blu-ray is exceptional, with a real eye toward visuals and the way in which they can be brought to the screen with the upmost clarity.  The director relied often on shots from above, as if from a drone or satellite, and those moments were always exquisite, never overused, and aided the feeling of open country all around, of being exposed to what was coming without anywhere to hide.

Audio – The disc was done in English DTS-HD Master Audio, with an option of English 5.1 Dolby Digital.  There are no language or subtitle options.  The sound quality was near as excellent as the video, with a wonderful soundtrack that carried the action.  Voices were a little muffled at times, and if you aren’t used to the accents you may be thrown for a bit, but once audiences settle in I think they will learn to appreciate the conversational style, and the way the director refused to make the sound amped up in a way it would not naturally have been.

Extras – There are many special features on the Blu-ray: Detective Jay Swan, Alex Russell as “Josh Waters”, Jacki Weaver as “The Mayor”, Director Ivan Sen, The Corruption of Goldstone, The Indigenous People of Australia, and two different trailers for the film.

Final Thoughts

Highly Recommended. To Americans, Australian movies have a genre all their own, defined by their unapologetic style and their true grit.  But Goldstone is more than just a good movie from Down Under, it’s a great version of the neo-Western we’ve grown to love and an original storytelling that flows with power and with truth.  If you like Westerns, here you go.  If you like high drama, you’re welcome.  And if you like the barren landscape of the desert and the emotion that flows through it, you’re in luck.  With so many reasons to love this film, its ability to weave all of its parts into something coherent and strong is perhaps its most impressive attribute, and that’s saying something for a film that is filled to the brim with quality.  The video is amazing, the audio is solid, there are many extras, so the technical aspects won’t let you down either, the entire project snapping together seamlessly to create something special.  Oscar season is just ramping up, so I’m sure there are a ton of marvelous features on their way to theatres near you, but I have a feeling that Goldstone will hold its head above the oncoming tide; it stands that tall.

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 


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DVD Review – LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Aquaman – Rage of Atlantis

Category : DVD Review

Director: Matt Peters

Starring: Dee Bradley Baker, Cristina Milizia, Grey Griffin

Year: 2018

Alongside the releases of The Lego Movie, The Lego Batman Movie, and The Lego Ninjago Movie, Warner Bros. and DC have pumped out a series of Lego DC Comics Super Heroes films, straight-to-video, that play on our kids’ love for all things LEGO, all things superhero, and all things awesome.  This genre will suck you in if you let it; what’s not to love about your favorite characters in brick form on epic adventures?  But that doesn’t mean that the quality lives up to the anticipation of seeing your dreams come true.  These films stay out of theatres for a reason, and ultimately they’re just for your sons and daughters to enjoy, as they taste comic book action for the first time, and in a package that’s much less violent, much more silly, and just plain fun, at least as long as you’re under the age of 10.

The Movie

The Justice League is Earth’s first, last, and constant defense against the evils of aliens and bad guys everywhere.  It is made up of the mightiest heroes in the world, and there is no danger that they will not face for the good of mankind.  Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, Green Lantern; there’s not a better team to be found, and no evildoer better test them.  But their most tentative member, Aquaman, isn’t exactly sure how he fits in, how his water skills translate to battle on land, or just how he can coexist with these legends.  He wants to prove himself by saving the day once in a while, but he makes more mistakes than he does highlights, and so each mission is a toss up.  He knows he can do the job, it’s just a matter of time, and of mistakes along the way.

The newest Green Lantern, Jessica Cruz, stepping in for Hal, is also nervous about how she fits into the group.  She can’t quite get her power ring under control; it does what it wants to, not what she tells it to, and she doesn’t really know how to command it anyway.  She’s not very helpful in a firefight, but she wants to be, and again, perhaps it’s just a matter of time.  But Green and Aqua better get their game faces on, because trouble is coming whether they’re ready or not.  In Atlantis, Aquaman’s stepbrother, Ocean Master, is planning a coup.  Along with his buddy, a Red Lantern named Atrocitus, he plans to take control of the city, the people, and the kingdom.  The Justice League will have to respond quickly and smartly if they want to avert disaster, and they’ll have to work together if they want to win.

There’s something undeniably fun about these Lego movies; it’s like our childhood dreams come to life.  You imagined storylines as you played, but now you can see them on screen, and that’s something special, so thank you WB and DC, for creating something awesome and entertaining and transporting.  Also, kids love these movies.  Obviously the theatrical releases were the big deals, Chris Pratt and Will Arnett and all that, but these silly Lego videos have been a big hit with kids too, because they basically deliver they same content, just at a markedly poorer quality.  Still, I doubt you’ll find a 6-10-year-old who wouldn’t enjoy these stories, especially if they are anything like my son, who loves superheroes but hasn’t seen the darker, more adult versions quite yet.

But the special thing about The Lego Movie and those like it is that they appeal to adults as well; these DC Comics Super Heroes movies really don’t.  They play more like episodes of a Netflix original series than real films, and perhaps that’s as much as should be expected of them; they never claim to be the animated movie of the year.  Aquaman is a throwaway installment, not a stand alone movie, a bit of a disappointment if you’re expecting something strong, a bit of enjoyable fluff if you don’t have very high expectations.  The jokes fall flat, the action is predictable, the story is muddled, the characters are shells; it seems ridiculous to pick it apart too much, because it is what it is, but other films of this style have been successful, so there’s a chance for it to be better, it just isn’t.

The Blu-ray

Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 (1080 HD 16×9), the video quality of the Blu-ray disc is acceptable but not stellar.  It’s a low-budget, straight-to-video production, so no one is expecting Disney/Pixar, and that’s exactly what we don’t get.  It’s a mediocre display of the Lego action we’ve started to enjoy, not on par with its contemporaries, but done well enough to entertain the kids if they’re already into the genre.

Audio – The disc was done in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, with an option of Dolby Digital French 5.1 and Dolby Digital Spanish 5.1.  Also, subtitles are available in English SDH, French, and Spanish.  The audio is completely forgettable, without a soundtrack to remember or awesome effects that stick with you after you power down.  The sound simply wasn’t important at all, and no effort was put in to make it so.

Extras – There are no bonus features on the Blu-ray, but you do get a cool limited edition Jessica Cruz mini-figure.

Final Thoughts

Rent It. If your child has ever stumbled upon these movies in the Lego section of your local library, picked one up, and enjoyed it at home, then Aquaman will deliver all that they expect and enjoy.  It’s goofy, it’s bumbly, it’s action-packed, you know all the characters, and at 77 minutes it’s a quick and easy watch for a rainy afternoon.  I just can’t recommend that parents watch along with their kids.  The best animated features can be loved by the whole family; this isn’t that.  This is something for your kids, something disposable, something a little longer than an episode of a dumb show but without the content of a real film.  The video is only OK, the audio isn’t noteworthy, and there aren’t any special features, so don’t expect anything from the technical aspects, but hey, you do  get a mini-figure.

☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ – Extras

☆ – Replay

 

 


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DVD Review – Hope Springs

Category : DVD Review

Director: Mark Herman

Starring: Colin Firth, Heather Graham, Minnie Driver

Year: 2003

Mark Herman went from directing movies in the 90s that no one ever heard of, to writing/directing a star-studded rom/com in Hope Springs, to adapting a mesmerizing drama for the screen in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.  Then he simply stopped.  From unknown to embarrassing to award-winning to just done; I guess it’s smart to go out on top, especially when your previous project was an utter disaster and you don’t want to risk that again.  Because that’s what this movie is, a complete disasterpiece, and I don’t mean in the same way as Dante’s Peak.  I don’t know what Herman was thinking when he read this novel, turned it into a film, and cast these actors, but he could not possibly have been in his right mind, since this is a feature not even a mother could love, a dirty smudge on the landscape of cinema that ought simply to be wiped off.

The Movie

Colin is a sad Englishman far from home by choice, looking for an escape from a broken heart and a failed relationship.  The girl who broke his spirit, Vera, also broke off their engagement, and is already engaged to another man.  The wedding invitation is what sent Colin over the edge, and across the pond, as he travels to the States in order to leave the past behind.  Or, perhaps, just to wallow in his own self pity, but that’s understandable.  Looking at a map, he picks a town called Hope as his destination, a lovely little town in New England that he imagines will serve as a springboard for a new life, or at least a temporary escape from his problems.  But, of course, his issues reside in his own head, and no quaint village is going to quiet down the racing doubt and utter despair that follow him on vacation.

First step; find a hotel room, and there’s one that features an owner who also happens to own an odd face, so that’s where Colin heads.  He’s an artist, usually portraits, and he has a mind to draw the people of this lovely town, perhaps create an exhibit of his work to showcase his medium and his melancholy.  And since he’s so depressed, the hotel owner’s wife calls up her friend Mandy, who is a caregiver, to come over and talk to Colin, see if she can help him with his problems.  Mandy is a hands-on type of woman, always positive and always lively, the exact opposite of Colin at the moment.  However, they say opposites attract, and the pair begin to fall for each other at once.  But Vera won’t let her ex get away that easy, she wants him for herself, and she’s traveled many a mile to bring him back home, no matter which blond American wants to keep him for her own.

I don’t often call a film a smudge, but I’m not sure what other term I can use to describe such an ugly outing, something that sullies the movie-going experience just by existing.  Hope Springs is a feature to steal the hope from your heart, to make you unsure about turning on the television ever again, it’s that bad.  Pedantic, pathetic, problematic, and just plain poor; this film is an embarrassment to a genre that is already pretty awful.  This style isn’t utterly impossible, there are a few good rom/coms, but Hope Springs isn’t one of them, it’s instead the exact example of what not to do.  Don’t make your characters despicable, don’t forget to bring something original to the table, and for god’s sake, don’t ever cast Heather Graham in a starring role; you’ll live to regret it.

Graham is one of the worst actors I’ve ever seen on screen, at least when she’s called upon to star; it’s just something she’s not capable of doing.  I’m not talking about Rollergirl, she can be quaint when she wants to be, but her role here even tries to produce something lovable and dim like that and can’t, because she doesn’t have enough ability to pull it off again.  I consider myself an expert on Graham, mainly because I’ve watched the entirety of Gray Matters and survived, which is no small feat.  I hate to pick on her too much, but I don’t even care that she gets semi-naked in this film; nothing is worth her performance.  Incidentally, Minnie Driver also takes her clothes off, which is a perk, but she’s also a great actress, even if she isn’t called upon to do any real acting in this movie.  Even Colin Firth gets in on the skin, but I doubt anyone is rushing to the theatre for that, and his character is so sniveling and sad that you can’t possible enjoy his talent, even if you know it’s there somewhere.  All three fail to make the story captivating, but in their defense, there’s not much to work with; this is perhaps the worst script ever written and a terrible idea from start to finish.

The Blu-ray

Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (1920x1080p), the video quality of the Blu-ray is fine for the film’s original year and for the transfer, but far from anything you’d want to write home about.  The clarity and the picture are OK, there’s nothing glaringly wrong, it’s just not special, and the cinematography is questionable at best.  The scenes feel more like skits than actual planned out cinematic sequences, which is not what you want.

Audio – The disc was done in English with an option of English subtitles.  That’s it, that’s all she wrote, and I doubt we’d want to hear this dialogue in any other language.  The conversations were so terrible they made you feel as if you should have been hired to write the lines instead; you couldn’t have done a worse job.

Extras – The only special features on this Blu-ray are a Making Of featurette (7 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage) and a group of trailers (6 in total).

Final Thoughts

Skip It. Hope Springs can at least go down as an example of what not to do, and I guess that’s helpful for educational reasons, if not enjoyable for any other.  Whatever can go wrong did go wrong, which isn’t exactly the theory, but close enough; I think we’ve established a new law of science, wherein creating something that’s the opposite of chemistry results in a very bad smell.  The acting, the story, the writing, the music, the setting, the general assumption that audiences are as dumb as they look; there isn’t anything to hang your hat on if you’re anyone in charge of this film, it was an all-around disappointment.  The video and audio are only OK, there aren’t many extras, so don’t look to the technical aspects to save you, you won’t get any help there.  The only thing to do is to stay far, far away, in another galaxy would be fine, as long as you don’t subject yourself to this film.

☆ – Content

☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ – Replay

 

 


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DVD Review – On Chesil Beach

Category : DVD Review

Director: Dominic Cooke

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Billy Howle

Year: 2017

I feel like we’ve watched Saoirse (like inertia) grow up, watched her change and mature and become something truly remarkable.  She’s made herself in an elite actress, this Irish girl with the heavy accent who can quite literally do anything.  From Atonement to Lady Bird, she’s proven that no film is too challenging, and from this point on audiences need to constantly be on the lookout for movies starring this brilliant young star.  On Chesil Beach caught my attention doubly, first for starring Ronan, and second for being based on an Ian McEwan novel by the same name.  McEwan is, of course, the author of Atonement, so there’s another connection, and another reason to watch.

The Movie

The year is 1962, the place is England, and the occasion is a honeymoon.  Newlyweds Edward and Florence have just come to the sea, to Chesil Beach, for their wedding night, which promises to be quite the experience.  Neither young lover has ever been with another before, has ever gone further than kissing with each other, for that matter.  This is still a conservative time, when couples attend teas to meet parents, join family businesses, and wait till they are married to do anything risque.  Edward and Florence are scared out of their minds at the thought of performing sexually when they finally find themselves alone at the end of the evening, a time they both might secretly hope never comes.

They met at a rally at university when Edward randomly walked in off the street; he so tousled and unsophisticated, she so driven and confident.  Edward was in school to study history, having always loved learning and reading and time to himself, often surrounded by nature, naming birds and plants with stunning accuracy.  His father was a principle, his mother an artist, and Edward never imagined he’d win a girl like Florence to his side.  She was of a higher class, going to school for music, and was of remarkable intelligence.  Her quartet was extremely talented, and she always dreamed up becoming a world-renown group someday.  Florence never dreamed of marrying such a unpolished boy, but true love strikes hard.  Now, as they come together to fulfill their marriage vows by worshiping each other with their bodies, old memories float to the surface, accompanied by brutal and relentless fears.

I am reminded of Room, both the novel and the film, for a very specific reason; otherwise this story and that don’t really have that much in common.  The similarity is the length of the book and how it is adapted into a movie.  Room should have been a short story or a novella, the content simply didn’t fill enough space to warrant a full novel.  It could have been half as long and gotten the point across better, there was simply too much that we didn’t need and so much fluff that should have been cut out.  The same applies here; On Chesil Beach the book is ridiculously formatted with giant margins so it can fill its pages, without the meat to make those pages worth their weight.  It could have and should have been shorter, much shorter, which would have made it much better.  And also, in both cases, the movie version is improved by being held to time restraints, by being edited down to what matters.

Still, the film adaptation is far from perfect.  The end insists on showing us old versions of Edward and Florence, terrible makeup and all, which is completely pointless and mood-ruining.  I didn’t mind the flashbacks to when the characters were younger, but I hated the gray hair and the wrinkles that can’t help but look fake, and were absolutely unneeded.  Also, Saoirse was not on her game, which was shocking.  Her accent was weak, her role was limited, and when not in those flashbacks she just wasn’t strong.  Billy Howle was though, he was tremendous, no matter the time period.  For someone I’m not overly familiar with, he’s now forced himself onto my radar, because there is no doubt that his talent shone.  The film has moments, there are times that work, but overall there are more negatives than positives.  Ronan just doesn’t wow, and the source material isn’t great; stick with Atonement for better of both.

The Blu-ray

Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 (1080p HD Widescreen) and shot using Arricam LT and ST cameras with Cooke S4 and Angenieux Optimo lenses, the video quality of the Blu-ray is excellent, with vivid color and crisp visuals, a delight to watch.  A lot of yellows and browns, greens and blues were used in creating this movie, which really brightened up what could have been a very heavy story.  The picture clarity is great, and the cinematography is as well, with a good eye toward English living in this period.

Audio – The disc was done in English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, with available Descriptive Video Service.  Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish, and French.  Button Sounds can be turned on or off in this menu.  The audio of the film was quite excellent, with a great, classical soundtrack and a nice underlying score.  The sound was balanced nicely as well, with no problems at all, and a very consistent flow of music throughout.

Extras – There are only two special features on the Blu-ray: Deleted Scenes (7 total) and The Story Behind On Chesil Beach (9-minutes of behind the scenes footage).

Final Thoughts

Recommended. This film could have been better, but perhaps the ceiling given it by the novel wouldn’t have ever allowed for much anyway.  The source material is almost incomplete, being both too short and too long at the same time, a very weak story that didn’t work as well as I’m sure it did in the mind of the author.  So the film already had something to fight against, but the time constraint may actually have been a positive, in that situation.  Unfortunately, Ronan did not deliver her best performance, and the movie will be forgotten sooner than its creators would have hoped.  Contrarily, the video and the audio were both excellent, while the special features were less exciting.  There is a real romance here, there are some beautiful moments; the final product just isn’t the spectacular drama we were hoping for.

☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆- Video

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 


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DVD Review – Color of Night

Category : DVD Review

Director: Richard Rush

Starring: Bruce Willis, Jane March, Ruben Blades

Year: 1994

That this movie exists is the first surprise; what isn’t surprising is that it’s so awful.  I must have missed its release in 1994, and I would have been too young to see it anyway, although right on the cusp of wanting to.  I can remember a time that seeing skin on USA Network was a big deal, and this film has that sort of feel, a too-shabby-to-be-anywhere-else vibe that’s much more becoming of a TV movie than an actual feature film.  It comes across as a terrible idea gone even more terribly wrong, something you’d expect to see at 2am one summer night, not starring Bruce Willis and being advertised as a legitimate entity.  It’s not, it’s really not, even if you remember this movie fondly from when you were a teenager and simply wanted to see Jane March naked.  You still can, this Blu-ray is a thing you can watch, you may just want to avert your eyes for literally every other scene.

The Movie

Pyschoanalyst Bill Capa has a nice practice going in New York, has good mentors, feels confident in his inherent competition with other therapists, has a full client list, and a large office in a high rise that was built to impress.  But the death of a patient right before his eyes will derail his gilded path and send him down a spiraling tunnel toward rock bottom.  All of a sudden he can’t keep it together, can’t stop seeing that girl laying dead at his feet.  And oddly enough, he can no longer see the color red, the color of blood, it has turned to gray, and a part of his emotional side has gone as dead as his senses.  Because he needs a break from the stress, Bill heads to L.A. for a little vacation to see his college buddy Bob Moore, a fellow psychologist who has also done rather well for himself.

However, instead of helping Bill with his problems, Bob has a situation of his own that he needs help with.  He has a regular Monday night group therapy session, and he thinks that someone in the group has been threatening his life.  It’s up to Bill to find out who it is, all while attempting to recover from the death of his own patient.  And it gets worse.  Before Bill can crack the case, Bob is murdered, probably by someone in the group, each of whom has serious issues that make them untrustworthy at best.  Sondra is a sex addict, Clark is an obsessive compulsive, Buck can’t get over a personal tragedy, Casey has anger problems, and Richie can’t identify his gender.  Bill’s own life will soon be in danger, as a mysterious young woman enters his world and ignites his desires, only to lead him toward self destruction.

This really is the perfect late night, channel-surfing, steamy thriller, except that it’s supposed to be an actual movie, and it wholeheartedly is not.  It’s a joke, a spoof, right?  Except that it isn’t, and that’s what makes it so horrible; thanks Buena Vista.  All the pieces are there for a Red Shoe Diaries or Silk Stockings episode (why are people obsessed with feet?), but Color of Night is supposed to be something more, while clinging to the exact same recipe.  Los Angeles, a wealthy professional, a host of odd characters, a sexy twig, car chases, a wise-cracking cop, sex in a pool; this really is the worst genre ever, when you start to dissect it into parts.  It’s like a hot tub; you can only enjoy it with your clothes off and if you don’t think too much about it.

A lot of people will remember Jane March for this film, because she’s all kinds of naked, which is really the only reason to watch, if you’re still hanging on to a crush you had for her when you were 14 in 1994.  Bruce Willis gets kind of nude too, which is more shocking, considering what a superstar he is these days, but I guess everyone’s gotta start somewhere.  What shocks me more than the skin is how anyone in their right mind could have cast Willis as a psychologist, how they could possibly have thought he would be believable as an intelligent person.  I like him just fine, but this role is ridiculous enough without casting him in it.  And then there’s the rest of the cast, which is just odd: Scott Bakula from Quantum Leap, Brad Dourif from Lord of the Rings, Lance Henriksen from Aliens, Kevin J. O’Connor from The Mummy, Eriq Le Salle and Kathleen Wilhoite from ER.  It’s a bizarre who’s who, which only makes the movie more out of place than it already is.  The tropes run rampant, the apartments are outrageous, the California nights drip with sweat, the detectives crack jokes, and we all get a little dumber watching what is basically an anti-filmmaking clinic with its very own theme song.

The Blu-ray

Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (1920x1080p) and shot using an Arriflex 535 camera, the video quality of this Blu-ray disc is as poor as you would imagine coming out of the 90s, especially when it really doesn’t seem like much effort was put in to making this film any sort of good.  There are a few moments when they highlight the color red, per Bill’s weird condition, and the death at the beginning looks cool, but other than that everything in this movie is a mess.  I actually wish it had been fuzzier, so I would have witnessed less.

Audio – The disc was done in English, with a choice between 5.1 Surround and 2.0 Stereo.  That’s it as far as the audio in concerned, and the only other thing that needs mentioning is the theme song.  Well, that and a continuing thread of music throughout that wasn’t too terrible.  The theme song, with words, plays at the end, and it’s comedic gold.  Also, it gives the film its title, which I don’t remember being referenced otherwise, so there you go.

Extras – The only bonus features on the Blu-ray are audio commentary by the screenwriter and an animated image gallery.  On the director’s cut, which comes with this disc and is 18 minutes longer (basically sex scenes), you can listen to commentary by the director and access trailers.

Final Thoughts

Skip It.  The story and screenplay for this film were written by Billy Ray, who would go on to become a well-known professional after this initial foray.  Again, it’s OK to start at the bottom and work your way up, no shame in that, it’s just weird to look back on the crap people once voluntarily connected themselves with; you wonder if they regret it now or if it was the start they needed.  Either way, this strange mix of smut and sensationalism exists, and I’ve now watched it, for which I am wholly disappointed with myself.  I didn’t need to see Bruce Willis roll a remote controlled tank up Jane March’s naked torso in the bath, nor hear him vocalize the utterly abysmal line “In the what-I-wait-for department, you’re it baby.”  I almost gave up right there, but I finished, which allows me to impart some wisdom to you; don’t watch this movie.  The video is bad, the audio is funny, the special features are few; basically there are no redeeming qualities.  You might have seen Color of Night when you were younger; you don’t want to go back and relive it, trust me.

☆ – Content

☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ – Replay

 

 


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DVD Review – 7 Days in Entebbe

Category : DVD Review

Director: Jose Padilha

Starring: Daniel Brühl, Rosamund Pike, Ben Schnetzer, Eddie Marsan

Year: 2018

7 Days in Entebbe is the poor man’s Argo; a 70s hostage crisis overseas that we already know the ending to but are curious to see play out anyway, only this time there’s no Ben Affleck to get people into the theatre.  This copy of that success has its own problems and its own strengths, its own method of delivering the story that we can read about on Wikipedia but choose not to.  I think, because Argo won Best Picture and its cast was star-studded, we hold it up on a pedestal, but 7 Days in Entebbe is almost as good, if not nearly as publicized, with a plot that’s hard not to become sucked into.  This film does choose a quieter, more character-driven and introspective direction, but that’s not to its discredit, and its under-performance since its release in March is not entirely warranted.

The Movie

Since the acknowledgment of the Israeli state around the globe, the people of Palestine have become disenfranchised from their own home, the anger at which has resulted in terrorist organizations forming throughout the world.  Paramilitants and freedom fighters from a variety of ethnic and political backgrounds joined together to help the cause of Palestine, shouting to have their voices heard, killing to get their point across.  Wilfried Bose and Brigitte Kuhlmann are radical German socialists who want to throw a grenade into the greater, capitalist consciousness, to wake people up to injustices across the planet.  If they have to do that with fear, so be it, with violence even; they and their allies have committed to seeing this twisted form of freedom through to the end, no matter what.

The latest plan to get Western attention directed to the battles in the Middle East is to hijack a Paris plane bound for Tel Aviv.  The plane will then be flown to Uganda where Idi Amin has given his blessing to a hostage situation.  If Israel will release its political prisoners, the hijackers will release the Jews they have kidnapped.  If not, they will be killed two at a time, starting with the children.  The German radicals and their friends believe that they will back the Israeli government into a corner from which they cannot escape, while at the same time the Israeli government prepares to hold to its stance of never negotiating with terrorists.  For the prisoners, this will be the longest week of their lives, as they wait out the struggle between a nation and a small force that wants the system that created nations to crumble.

I liked Argo as much as the next guy, but it didn’t blow me away, and I definitely don’t think it was Best Picture caliber; honestly it wasn’t a very strong year, with a lot of “quiet good” but not of ton of “amazing”, at least in the group of films that dominated the conversation.  This is a hard plot to make work flawlessly; it’s dated, it’s already known, it’s inherently melodramatic, and I wouldn’t touch the genre in general if I were a director.  To tackle a similar story like 7 Days in Entebbe, even years after it was done well, is a pretty bold move, because it’s hard enough already even before they start in on you with the comparisons.  But somehow this film worked, or at least I think so, which differs from the opinion of most.  It doesn’t get very high ratings or great reviews, but this real life drama is flying under the radar where it doesn’t belong.

Entebbe isn’t heart-pounding, and that’s its biggest critique.  Those who know the style wanted big escape scenes, edge-of-your-seat close calls, really focused tension when shit is about to hit the fan.  In that way, this movie went the opposite direction, but I somehow still felt myself being drawn in to the tale.  Instead of the intensity of the situation, we get very specific looks at the people involved; I guess you could say that this is a character study.  The action is mostly quiet, the emphasis is on the participants; their backstories, their lives, their fears.  There is some buildup, but mostly we know how it’s going to end, the point of the story becomes learning about why this was done and what it can teach us going forward.  Bruhl and Pike are a good team of villains; just a touch of humanity and sadness, without making terrorists look like heroes.  Schnetzer and Marsan were good on the periphery; adding depth to the tale and an outside perspective.  The direction was clean, and perhaps the element I enjoyed most was the dance.  There was an interpretive dance featured throughout with a minor character as one of the dancers, and it was very moving, flowing nicely with the plot to really make a strong point.  I simply liked Entebbe more than most, for the quality of its acting, the intricacies of its story, and the execution of its moral.

The Blu-ray

Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 (1080p HD Widescreen), the video quality of the Blu-ray disc is very strong.  It boasts solid visuals but also an authentic feel, with some archival footage and a really strong reenactment overall.  Authenticity was important to the film, and it showed, it was like seeing history; brutal, complicated, not clean, not stunning, sometimes depressing, sometimes hard to watch.

Audio – The disc was done in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, with an option of English Descriptive Video Service.  Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish, and French.  Button sounds can be turned on or off.  The audio was serviceable, not spectacular, without memorable moments to hold onto after the credits roll.  There was a nice balance of sound as it weaved through the dialogue, but nothing stellar was ever needed for the action.

Extras – There are three bonus features on the Blu-ray: The Entebbe Team, a 7-minute behind the scenes segment, Inside the Raid, another 7-minute behind the scenes look, and Additional Dance Sequences, 5 minutes of bonus dance footage.

Final Thoughts

Highly Recommended7 Days in Entebbe has been disparagingly called a slow, listless thriller with no speed or surprise, but I think that’s exactly why I liked it.  It took the regular, true life, historic thrill ride recipe and took away the energy, but somehow in a good way.  The story became about the people, not the context, and definitely not about the action.  We saw the crisis through the eyes of the humans who were really there, and that’s a powerful thing.  We also saw how little things have changed in 40 years, but that’s a topic for another time.  That’s another plus about this movie; it opens topics up for conversation, even uncomfortable ones, and that’s never a bad thing.  I think the director and the writer stopped just short of making the terrorists relatable and pushing us to feel empathic for them, for which I’m thankful, because I think that would have been going too far, but at least they were able to sculpt real villains, instead of complete shells.  The video quality is high, the audio quality a touch lower, and the extras falling somehow in middle range, so don’t expect too much from the technical aspects, just appreciate what you can get.  And don’t let this film completely pass you by; it’s worth more than that.

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay