Monday, February 20, 2012

Dead Poet's Society (Blu-Ray)

I had never seen this film before. It had come out when I was a child and honestly I’ve never had the attention span for it when it was popular. I know that this is considered a classic but come on. I know that I’m a pretty cold guy but honestly this flick really is dishonest.

Painfully shy Todd Anderson has been sent to the school where his popular older brother was valedictorian. His roommate, Neil, although exceedingly bright and popular, is very much under the thumb of his overbearing father. The two, along with their other friends, meet Professor Keating, their new English teacher, who tells them of the Dead Poets Society, and encourages them to go against the status quo. Each, in their own way, does this, and is changed for life.

Hypocrisy is the order of the day in DEAD POETS SOCIETY. It gives a rousing, inspirational sermon ("Seize the day!" is the teacher's motto.), yet the story itself mocks the film's supposed intentions. DEAD POETS SOCIETY is about failure, but it won't admit it; worse, it seems to believe it's own inspirational PR. The film serves up a tacked on and utterly false moment of triumph at the end, but everything that proceeds that is a lesson in failure. Williams fails to teach the students to show moral courage. One student commits suicide rather than fight for his beliefs. When Williams is wrongly accused of something, his supposedly adoring students turn on him like a pack of weasels. The one student who stands up for his ideals is expelled from the school and forgotten by the film. A father fails his son. The school fails its students. And the film fails its audience.

Yet, for some inexplicable reason, people remember the film for its inspirational message: Seize the day! Carpe Diem! Fine words, but at no time are they supported by the empty pessimism that the film displays. The characters that do take chances are immediately and soundly punished. Those who knuckle under -- showy, petty acts of deviance aside -- plod along.

However the film looks and sounds great on blu-ray. The special features are also amazing.

  • Audio Commentary: I always welcome a chance to listen to Peter Weir
  • Dead Poets: A Look Back: An engrossing feature that's well-worth watching.
  • Raw Takes: A deleted scene that really failed. Great omission.
  • Master of Sound: Alan Splet: Weir and filmmaker David Lynch discuss the life, career and cinematic contributions of the late Academy Award-winning sound designer, Alan Splet. This is amazing.
  • Cinematography Master Class (SD, 15 minutes): Seale talks about the impossibility of perfection before a narrator takes over and nearly spoils the entire thing.

Ok I understand why people like this movie. But the whole thing just does not sit with me properly. Sorry it’s just not a movie for me.

Dead Poets Society [Blu-ray] just hit the stores this week!

We received product for our review. All opinions are our own

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Whistleblower (Blu-Ray)

Gotta love movies about corporate corruption.There is a huge genre of films but they mainly focus on a dramatic court case. However, The Whistleblower does not. It’s become a rarity to find a political thriller that is intelligent, intense and intriguing. So when one like The Whistleblower comes along, I find no trouble in treasuring every moment of it.

Synopsis time!!!

Inspired by true events, Kathy is an American police officer who takes a job working as a peacekeeper in post-war Bosnia. Her expectations of helping to rebuild a devastated country are dashed when she uncovers a dangerous reality of sex trafficking, political corruption, cover-ups and intrigue amid a world of private contractors and multinational diplomatic doubletalk.

The story here is strong and every moment, especially in the final act, breathes with a wicked intensity that keeps you on your toes, but the real driving force of the film is Weisz. For some reason it seems like it's pretty hard for films to present female characters who are strong and firm in their beliefs without turning them into unbearable stereotypes. This is not a contrived, or "generic" "CSI" story.

Frequently, the subject matter and scenes of girls undergoing sexual abuse and torture are stomach churning. The film can be relentless at times showing various punishments and cruelty. Human trafficking, especially if it involves a trusted world organization and its sleazy contractors, is an extremely important subject to cover and make films about; therefore, be ready to adjust uncomfortably in your seats as you watch downright disgusting and brutal activities perpetrated against teenage girls. 

On the flip side some scenes go over the top. It kind of cheapens the whole thing. 

The movie is dark and gritty but the definition is clean. The film just looks great no matter how dark and disturbing the images are. The lone bonus feature on the disc is Kathy Bolkovac: The Real Whistleblower, a short featurette that includes interviews with Bolkovac, Weisz, and the film's writers and director. 

This was the real deal. The Whistleblower is an amazingly engaging feature that while hard to watch is a must see. However, this is better rented rather than owned because I can guarantee that you will only want to see it once.

Whistleblower [Blu-ray] is available for purchase at

We received a copy of this blu-ray for review, all opinions are our own.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Good Morning Vietnam (Blu-Ray)

Made at a time when films on the Vietnam War were being produced by America at a healthy rate, Good Morning, Vietnam comes across as the sort that falls into both 'types' that were being produced at the time. Platoon got under the skin of Vietnam, telling the events from an individual's perspective through voice overs without relying on a lot of causality, rather the everyday tasks and events that occur. Full Metal Jacket was an interesting beast in the sense most of its more intense scenes didn't actually happen in Vietnam but rather at home on the training ground. But both were in a sensible tradition and took attention away from the Reaganism inspired 'action' films that were Rambo: First Blood Part II and the like.

Good Morning, Vietnam falls into both these sorts of Vietnam war films. On one hand it is a serious film about the war and deals with serious issues such as morale and how dangerous conflict with the enemy actually is without doing what Rambo did by turning the war genre into a sub-division of the action genre. At one point in the film, DJ and lead character of the film Adrian Cronauer (Williams) finds himself in a hostile area out in the jungle and you do feel the shift in atmosphere the film briefly moves into in the sense this guy is not a soldier but he is in a dangerous position and he isn't equipped with how to get through it. 

The best parts of Good Morning, Vietnam actually raises issues to do with oppositional reading. As a character, Adrian is one of those charismatic individuals who is perhaps more focused on entertaining his audience first but when repercussions to do with that want to entertain arise, it is an oppositional reading to something that seems innocent enough. There are a couple of scenes and incidences that deal with this theme of oppositional reading. 

Good Morning, Vietnam isn't a perfect film, nor does it ever break free of its own star's gravitational pull. But when it's funny, it's really funny. When it throws an emotional punch, it really throws a punch. If it were only a more consistent, less indulgent comedy, drama or dramedy, it might resonate with me more. As it stands, though, it's a bit all over the map.

The Blu-Ray transfer is all over the map too. The noise reduction is all over the place and there is some edge enhancement too. The special features here are realty lacking too not in quality but quantity. We have a production diary that is very good and was begging for more. There is also a raw monologue of Robin Williams doing what he does best - improv.

Overall it’s a good movie not great but really good.

We received product for our review. All opinions are our own

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Double (Blu-Ray

Spy movies are a dime a dozen.  Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t.  Hitchcock really pioneered the genre.  Viewers today are so accustomed to "twists", "reveals" and "spoilers" that everyone assumes it's supposed to be a Big Secret that the retired CIA man played by Richard Gere in The Double is really . . . a Soviet assassin. (Oops!) But the trailer discloses it, hints are dropped early in the film, and Gere's character confesses his identity less than half an hour in. And did I mention that the title of the film is TheDouble?

What is the film about? Story kicks off with the mysterious murder of a senator bearing the marks of a Soviet assassin, who was long thought to be dead. To hunt down the killer, a retired CIA operative, who spent his career going toe-to-toe with his Soviet nemesis, is teamed with a young FBI agent.

Everything about the film is a bit blah…nothing really hits the mark.  I really wish I enjoyed this film a bit more but I did not.  This film is far from horrible.  This isn't your thinking man spy movie. Here it relies more on action and some surprises. And some nice surprises I might add. It has a nice pace and it will entertain more than enough. But it could have been so much better. The most essential thing that "The Double" lacks is proper build up. One of the surprises is revealed much too quickly which for me spoiled lot of the fun too early on. It is fair to say that I did lose a little interest.

Gere and Grace are both fine if not memorable and they get some assistance form actors such as Martin Sheen, Steven Boyer, Tamer Hassan, and Odette Annable (a refreshing find!). The dialogue is pretty much drowned out by the noisy musical score and the ambient noise of the action. Not a bad movie, just not a memorable one. It could use a bit of tidying up on the editing and the scoring and it might make sense. 

Commentary with Writer-Director Michael Brandt and Writer-Producer Derek Haas: Brandt and Haas provide a wealth of information about the background of the script and especially the changes it underwent during production and editing.

Producer Interviews: A general featurette containing interviews with Gere, Grace, Moyer, Brandt and Haas. Watch after you see the movie.

The Double looks and sounds amazing on Blu-Ray however the film does not hold up as well.  This is a good rental but definitely not a purchase!

The Double [Blu-ray] is available at and your local stores now.

We received product for our review. All opinions are our own 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Real Steel (Blu-Ray)

Growing up I was a huge fan of Stallone. I taped all his movies off HBO.I’ve seen Cobra, Rocky, Cliffhanger, Demolition Man and Over the Top hundreds of times. My expensive film school education tells me that these films are terrible, but I can’t help but love them because they are so much fun. My review of Tree of Life reminded me that film is an art form, this week Real Steel reminded me that film is fun.

Real Steel was the film that Stallone failed to make in the 1980s. I’m sorry that’s not true, this film is a combination of Over the Top, Rocky and Transformers. In fact Stallone made this film twice and it rocked both times. Here Hugh Jackman takes over the Stallone role. It’s kind of great. I’m not going to get into the plot because a 2nd grader could probably guess the entire plot from the trailer.

Hugh Jackman’s films never really played to me, for a brief time in 2006 he had a string of good movies (Scoop, The Prestige, The Fountain) but before and after he never really showed any talents. Jackman has now shown us that he can play a character that is not Wolverine (a character and film series that I HATE). Real Steel showed me that Jackman is powerful and compassionate as he believably transforms into the hero. He played all of the clich├ęs that I grew up on perfectly. Most will think this is a bad thing, but his character really felt like I was watching a hero from an Amblin film (Zach Galligan in Gremlins or Sam Neil in Jurassic Park). He owned this role. 

Honestly there is not much to this film, but who cares, I clapped at robots punching each other for two hours. I felt like an 8-year-old again, wearing out my VHS of Over the Top. The filmmaking is pretty decent. Well-shot scenes. The CGI robots look great. The performances were good. Dakota Goyo is a bit charming. Chemistry with he and Jackman shines through the film. This film looks and sounds great on blu-ray. 

This is the kind of movie you catch on HBO and get caught up watching the whole thing. This movie proved to me that Hugh Jackman could carry a film alone. The film is enjoyable from the first frame to the last. With a special mention to the first few scenes, which were great. 

  • Countdown to the Fight -- The Charlie Kenton Story: A brief "Mockumentary" that was pretty cool.
  • Making of Metal Valley: A good short featturette.
  • Building the Bots (1080p, 5:38): An all-too-short looks at the practice and purpose of designing original robots, both in the real and digital worlds.
  • Sugar Ray Leonard: Cornerman's Champ: A look at boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard's contributions to the film.
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes: Extended Meet Ambush and Deleted Butterfly Storyline.

Real Steel  is on DVD shelves everywhere.

We received product for our review. All opinions are our own
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