2017 New York Comic Con Review: Day 2

2017 New York Comic Con

Friday, October 6th 2017
Jacob K. Javits Center, New York, NY

Our Score: 3 out of 5 Stars

All things pop culture descended on New York City specifically The Jacob K. Javits Center as the sprawling complex once again played host to the annual New York Comic Con held on October 5th-8th. The event now in its 11th year was once again put on by the Connecticut based company Reed Pop a company who organizes some of the largest pop culture events around the country. 2017 proved to be no exception and despite having to deal with a smaller venue space due to construction the event still boasted an over whelming number of vendors and appearances by some of the biggest names in comics, film and television.

Day two of the four day convention this year seemed a bit lacking in the way of panels and events as compared to previous however that did not thwart our attempt to take in the massive show floors and numerous cos-players as the con is always one we look forward to attending each year. Right off the bat we noticed that the entry to the event was much easier than in previous years as there was now two different entries for single/multiple day pass holders. This dramatically cut down the once endless serpent like line which in previous years engulfed the outside areas of the center. Despite a quicker entry once inside you could instantly see that the construction taking place in several key areas of the center such as the section which normally houses artist alley was causing large bottle necks of immovable lines. For those wanting to meet their favorite artist or creator gone was the spacious, well lit corridor which was always a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the main show floors but instead this year creators and artist were relegated to one of the structures basement levels which caused for a less than pleasurable viewing experience complete with cramped/impassible walk ways and a heightened room temperature that at times almost took your breath away.

After a couple escalator rides we made our way on to the main show floors. This area also seemed to take on the brunt of less floor space in other areas as walk ways and vendor spaces seemed much smaller than in previous years. As always the Funko booth commanded a lot of attention as those fortunate enough to be selected in the lottery process waited in endless lines in hopes to purchase one of the sought after convention exclusives. During our time at the booth we had the chance to grab a quick autograph from WWE Superstar and Funko Enthusiast Zach Ryder who had stopped by to check out his NYCC exclusive Pop! figure. Other notable vendors were the Middle Earth “Shadow of War”  booth which featured a life size dragon which convention goers could have their pictures on and Marvel vs. Capcom’s replica Ultron and throne display both of which garnered long wait times just to get a glimpse of.

Before leaving for the day we made quick stop in the autographing area which as always is a popular stop for most attendees. Some of the big names this year included Michael Rooker, Peter Capaldi and Mark Hamill among a long list of others. With prices ranging from $40 to $300 per signature we did not spend a lot of time in this area but there were plenty of others anxiously awaiting to spend their hard earned cash to meet their favorite actors and actresses.

With more and more events/panels being held off site it makes me question just how much longer the Javits center will remain a viable location for the Con. With early attendance figures coming in at around 200,000 for the four days the event shows no signs slowing down. Hopefully the center will be back to full functionality for next year’s event as the lack of space definitely impacted all aspects of the event. Either way, we can not wait for next year.

Film Review #2 “Despicable Me 3”

Directed by: Pierre Coffin, Kyle Balda
Starring: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker
Distributed by Universal Pictures[2]
MPAA Rating: PG
Running time: 90 minutes

Mike G’s Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Illumination Entertainment really has a gold mine here with the “Despicable Me” franchise. It literally just prints its own money…but so far after three films and an even better spin-off, they are still great. Pixar’s movies cost near or above $200 million per film and don’t get me wrong they are good, at least they used to be, while Illumination knocks out films like this and “The Secret Lives of Pets” for just $80 million. These are quality films that are very entertaining, pack great voice casts and overall great movies. “Despicable Me 3” is a great addition to the series and is a step up from the second film.

Official Premise: The mischievous Minions hope that Gru will return to a life of crime after the new boss of the Anti-Villain League fires him. Instead, Gru decides to remain retired and travel to Freedonia to meet his long-lost twin brother for the first time. The reunited siblings soon find themselves in an uneasy alliance to take down the elusive Balthazar Bratt, a former 1980s child star who seeks revenge against the world.

Pharrell Williams steps up again and some great new songs for this film. I don’t think he replicated another “Happy” on this soundtrack but very fun music. In addition the film has a flood of 80’s theme of music that is very fun in this film ranging from a-ha to Madonna to Michael Jackson. Trey Parker, co-creator of “South Park” is a new addition to this cast and voices the role of villain Balthazar Bratt, a former child star who’s grown up to become obsessed with the character he played in the 80’s, Evil Bratt. Trey knocks it out of the park and steals the movie, no question. Also we get to meet Gru’s twin brother, Dru and he is another great addition to this sequel.

What I love most about this film is that it is has a nice balance. A nice balance of Gru, Lucy and the girls as well as the a fun backstory for Bratt and of course we get a good amount of those lovable Minions. If Illumination is reading, I am ready for a “Minions 2” BTW for sure next. Just love those guys (or whatever they are). I saw this with my five year old daughter and she simply had a blast. She was laughing throughout and even though some of the 80’s theme was obviously lost on her she enjoyed the balance of the characters and just had a great time watching this film. I really hope that Illumination continues down this trend and continues to deliver great animated films for the whole family!

Film Review “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”

Directed by: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan,
Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios
Release Date: May 5, 2017
Running time: 136 minutes

Mike G’s Score: 4 out of 5 stars

When I left the advance screening back in 2014 for Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy”, I said to my wife that this movie is the “Star Wars” for our new generation and it will be HUGE! Fast forward to 2017 and here we are with Vol.2 being released and looking back at how much the first film affected Hollywood. The magic of the first film has tried to be copied since and the only film to get close was “Deadpool”. It is hard for me to scream that “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is better than the first. I really really liked it but I also watch the first film almost weekly or at least monthly, so to say I’m a big fan is an understatement. I even got my 5 year old daughter into the first film (I know I’m a terrible dad, but she LOVES IT!). Vol.2 is easily one of the best films I have seen this year and an amazing follow-up to the first film. I have a feeling as I see it a few times more my love will only grow.

Personally, I am bored with “The Avengers” in general, i.e. Iron Man, Captain America and their movies. I am more into Marvel’s releases like “Guardians”, “Doctor Strange” and even the new “Thor” looks fantastic! These are great superhero movies and I can easily add Vol.2 to that list! The sequel not only is action packed entertaining movie but also packs some mega emotional character driven dramatic moments. I love those moments. This movie has so much heart, literally so much. The jokes are funnier. I swear everything that Drax says is pure gold. Baby Groot was cute and really wasn’t overused like I assumed he would be to steal the show.

Everyone was talking about Kurt Russell’s role of Ego and Peter Quill’s father..and he was everything I wanted and more! Russell is just tearing it up with this and the “Fast and Furious” franchise. He is on fire. The star of this film is no question, Michael Rooker. His role of Yondu was expanded greatly from the first film and really gets some amazing screen time (cue Cat Stevens’ song “Father and Son”). Even Sean Gunn (James’ brother) got an expanded role and delivered some really great scenes. I really enjoyed Kraglin in this film! Sylvester Stallone popped up for a bit, cool to see him but didn’t do much. He was mostly just setup for future films playing the important character aka Starhawk. And if you are a Toby fan like me from the TV series “This Is Us” keep an eye out for Taserface! Love him! The girl power in “Guardians” was very strong, which makes me happy due to having an eager to see this 5 year old. Karen Gillan got a chance to expand Nebula more in this sequel and she was just brilliant. Zoe Saldan and her got some nice screen time together. Pom Klementieff joined on playing a very important character named Mantis and easily stole our hearts…even though she is really ugly…(according to Drax).

The songs from the first “Guardians” really made the film so special and unique. The second film doesn’t disappoint in terms of great picks and don’t feel forced like when “Suicide Squad” tried to copy. ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” is a great track. Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” has great placement in the film. Sam Cooke’s “Bring it on Home to Me” was a great and very sweet moment. George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” is one of my favorite songs ever. I mentioned above Cat Stevens’ song “Father and Son,m which was just a perfect choice for this film. James Gunn’s band along with David Hasselhoff, yes David Hasslehoff even have a fun song in the end credits. The score is beautiful again from Tyler Bates. I’ve been listening to it for about a week now before seeing the film and I had a really great appreciation for the music when I saw it. Honestly this is the first Marvel film that really interested me with their score.

The visual effects are just beautiful. Ego’s planet is breathtaking for sure. This is a film that needs to be seen in the theater. Preferable the biggest IMAX screen possible. Please do not see this film at little theater. 3D was good didn’t really jump out too much. I could have gone either way on that. This franchise has a BIG future ahead of it and as long as it has James Gunn’s vision leading it down this path I am on board and very excited to see what is coming next! Hopefully Gunn will actually give Nathan Fillion a decent role in next film that won’t be cut 😉 I am just happy that Vol.2 doesn’t disappoint and I believe that it is because they didn’t just try and copy the first film. They took what worked from the first film, expanded it perfectly and ended up with one of the year’s best film.

Blu-ray Review “Bad Santa 2”

Actors: Billy Bob Thornton, Brett Kelly, Tony Cox, Kathy Bates, Christina Hendricks
Directors: Mark Waters
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Broad Green Pictures
Release Date: February 21, 2017
Run Time: 94 minutes

Film: 3 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2 out of 5 stars

Billy Bob Thornton, Brett Kelly, Tony Cox all return for the completely unnecessary sequel. The 2003 film was a great film and that’s it. We never needed a sequel to this…did they see what happened to “Anchorman 2” or “Zoolander 2″…they didn’t learn. Kathy Bates and Christina Hendricks are to the cast but add no value, in fact I usually love Bates but she was flat out terrible in this. A few funny jokes but overall this just shouldn’t have happened.

Official Premise: Fueled by cheap whiskey and greed, Willie Soke (Academy Award-winner Billy Bob Thornton), teams up once again with his angry sidekick, Marcus (Tony Cox), to knock off a Chicago charity run by curvaceous Diane (Christina Hendricks). But the arrival of Willie’s horror story of a mother, Sunny (Academy Award-winner Kathy Bates), and “the kid” – Thurman Merman – may upset their plan. You better watch out, Bad Santa 2 is coming to town!

The Blu-ray presentation is nothing special but works for what it is. No complaints. If you want a Digital HD copy of this film included, you would need to shell out for the 4K Ultra HD release…but I wouldn’t waste your money. The special features aren’t anything special either. There are two versions of the film included. The Theatrical Version runs 1:32:16 and the Unrated Version runs 1:34:50. So it is really nothing extra included here making this worth it.

The special features included are “Thurman Then & Now” is as look into the actor between the two films. Next is “Just Your Average Red Band”, which looks at how raunchy the film is.  “That’s My Willie” Original Animated Series is a collection of animated shorts. “Jingle Balls” is (not a shocker her) the song “Jingle Bells” giving a dirty twist. Lastly there are a few deleted scenes, an alternate opening/ending and gag reel included.

Film Review: “John Wick: Chapter 2”

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Common and Laurence Fishburne
Directed By: Chad Stahleski
Rated: R
Running Time: 122 minutes
Summit Entertainment

Our Score: 4 out of 5 Stars

Did the first “John Wick” need a sequel? No. Does “John Wick: Chapter 2” need a sequel? Yes. I didn’t know I needed “Chapter 2” in my life, but I’m glad I got it and now I want more. “Chapter 2” is more of the same from the first installment and that’s not a bad thing. It’s a great thing.

Picking right up where the previous movie ended, John Wick (Reeves), also known as “The Boogeyman,” is finishing off the lingering threats and hitmen who did him wrong from the first installment. But instead of easing back into a low-key and somber retirement, with a new dog in tow, he’s greeted by an old acquaintance, Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio). D’Antonio recruits Wick to help him take over a seat of power in the criminal underworld. Wick isn’t so sure, but Santino uses an old blood oath and three missiles to Wick’s home to sway him.

All the potential consequences and paths of this blood oath, as pointed out to Wick multiple times throughout, are Wick’s death. Luckily for Wick, and the audience, he’s the one who spends entire runtime dishing out death. Before the story even contemplates getting too muddled in specifics and new characters, “Chapter 2” takes a deep breath and once again stops itself from becoming too literal. Just like the original, character introductions are more about the person’s individual quirks, skills and ticks, than their actual name or purpose. And “Chapter 2” keeps the video games tropes around as everything is still paid through magical golden tokens and Wick’s gun is stuck on auto-aim.

This helps keep everything flowing as this sequel is about 30 minutes longer, but rarely dull. While “John Wick” was more about the man behind the blood hungry myth, the sequel appears to be more about Wick diving deeper into the world around him, including the Continental, the criminal safe haven, hangout and safe zone from the first film. The Continental is still shrouded in mystery, but the little depth that is revealed implies it’s a lot more than just a U.N. for gangbangers. It may be the actual cogs of society and government.

What made the original so good is that it never bogged itself down in realism despite the backdrop being New York City. Instead it collects visual actualities to prop up this notion that this alternative reality is percolating beneath the surface. “Chapter 2” expands this alternate reality by dropping visual indications on how all these backstabbing swindlers and emotionless assassins have managed to govern themselves. Murder is their business and they’re serious about it. The rules in this violent fantasy world are simple, habitual, rehashed for clarity, and never biased towards any of the heroes and villain.

“Chapter 2” also further establishes previous canon while building on fresh canon without having any of the new nuances become superficial. The violence is a lot more over-the-top, but played straight-faced for laughs. The killings are more gruesome, but never repugnant. Like much of the visually stunning set-pieces, like a room of rotating mirrors bathed in laser light, the violence is aesthetically pleasing. That’s because it’s visually relayed that Wick doesn’t love or sink his teeth into this line of work anymore, but does it as a necessity for survival.

The same crew from the first is back for more, providing an enjoyable and realistic continuation of a seemingly one-off story about a retired assassin out for revenge. He’s no longer out for revenge, but struggling with the underworld that wants him to be addicted to the rush and thrill of being a hired gun. Wick’s world is noir, retro, and techno all in one cohesive ball. The John Wick franchise is not only a great addition to the action-film catalogue, but a much needed renaissance for the CGI-heavy genre.

DVD Review “Surf’s Up 2: Wavemania”

Directors: Henry Yu
Actors: WWE Superstars John Cena, Undertaker, Triple H, Paige and Mr. McMahon
Rated: PG
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Film: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

I don’t know when this became a thing but WWE is taking over animation as well. They have mixed there brand with Scooby Doo, The Flintstones, The Jetsons (coming soon) and now they made their way into a sequel to the 2007 film “Surf’s Up”. This films features the voices of WWE Superstars John Cena, Undertaker, Triple H, Paige and Mr. McMahon. The movie itself is nothing special honestly unless you are a hardcore “Surf’s Up” or WWE fan. Cute and fun but not really necessary or memorable.

Official Premise: Cody Maverick, hungry for a new challenge, convinces an infamous big wave riding crew known as The Hang 5, voiced by WWE Superstars John Cena®, Undertaker®, Triple H®, Paige™ and Mr. McMahon® to let him join them on their journey to a mysterious surf spot known as The Trenches, where legend has it, they’ll find the biggest waves in the world. Cody soon discovers that the life he left behind might be more heroic than what any death-defying wave has to offer.

Sony only released this film on DVD but at least they included a Digital HD copy with the release. The special features are decent as well. There is “Behind the Mic: Hanging with the Dream Team”, which looks into the voice cast. “Chicken Joe’s Extreme Slaughter Island Tour” is a fun animated featurette with the character. “How to Draw Your Favorite Characters with Director Henry Yu” shows the processing of drawing the characters. “Inside the Music” is featurette with the Composer Toby Chu. Lastly there are bloopers included. So not to bad for a direct-to-DVD sequel.

The Firefly 2 – If Q Made a Vaporizer, This Would Be It

Quitting your highly paid Silicon Valley job as a software developer for Apple might seem like insanity. But that’s just what Matt Williams did. Along with his partner, Sasha Robinson, who also packed in a highly-paid Silicon Valley tech job, Williams set out to change the vaping industry.

A High-End Sleek Design

They resolved to build a better vaporizer. Some would even call it the “Q” of vaporizers, after the James Bond tech geek who supplied the British super spy with all his gadgets. They wanted to do for smoking what MP3 players did for music.

They wanted to create a sleek, aesthetically sensual device that would fit in the palm of someone’s hand. There were all sorts of problems to solve: most importantly how to create an oven that would heat to 400 degrees without exploding in the user’s face.

By tinkering in Robinson’s basement with different materials for coils and power sources, the concept of the Firefly was born. And it was wildly successful. Released in 2014, it was soon on back order for 5,000 units.

Williams and Robinson, like many entrepreneurial inventors, didn’t rest on the laurels of the Firefly 1. They aimed to create a lighter, sleeker, and faster model than its predecessor. They also wanted this upgrade to handle cartridges of concentrates.

Their efforts gave birth to the Firefly 2.

Is Firefly 2 Worth the Price?

Many would balk at the $329.95 price tag, but that would be a mistake. The Firefly 2 is wholly worth the price. Once you delve into the features that the Firefly 2 packs, the price is oh-so-worth-it.

The Firefly 2 just might be the future of portable dry herb and concentrate vaporizers. The features that come with this handy little gadget are nothing to be sniffed at, even if you are a novice to vaporizing your herb.

Less than half the weight and 1/3 smaller than its predecessor this vape fits easily into a back pocket. Better yet, it heats in seconds, all while delivering consistent vapor quality. More importantly, it works via convection heating, which some argue is better than conductive heating. Proponents of convection heating say it results in a purer, better tasting inhale.

Explore The Firefly 2 Smart Features

The model charges in as little as 45 minutes. It also comes with 2 batteries, so you never have to worry about running out of power as long as you keep at least one charged. If you do need a recharge, a handy 3.0 USB cable that comes with the charging cradle can connect to any cell phone or tablet charger. Battery life is phenomenal as well.

Available for both iOS and Android phones, the optional (and free) Firefly app puts you in charge of the temperature. It allows you to choose from 6 preset heating profiles, depending on your preference and what you’re vaping. Several temperature settings are available. All are easily configured via your phone and the app and by pressing the side buttons. The app also provides a convenient way to get tech support when needed.

Need that hit and need it now for pain relief, frazzled nerves, or just to relax? No need to worry with the Firefly 2. It can heat up to 400 degrees in 5 seconds. Your preferred herb or concentrate only heats when you inhale, so there is no waste.

Even considering the $330 price tag, the Firefly 2 is well worth the price. Sleek, efficient, and providing quality vapor, it is sure to be on many a vaper’s wish list.

Author

Michael is a marketing and creative content specialist at GotVape.com with primary focus on customer satisfaction. Technology and fitness combined healthy lifestyle obsession are his main talking points

 

Win Free Passes to Florida Screenings of “Bad Santa 2”

Calling Florida moviegoers, below please find the codes for the screenings of “Bad Santa 2”. If you want to see this film before ANYONE else! Hurry fast and grab tickets below and spread the word to your friends as well! They will go VERY fast! Enjoy and be sure to leave comments below after the film!

Fueled by cheap whiskey, greed and hatred, Willie Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) teams up with his angry little sidekick, Marcus, to knock off a Chicago charity on Christmas Eve. Along for the ride is chubby and cheery Thurman Merman, a 250-pound ray of sunshine who brings out Willie’s sliver of humanity. Mommy issues arise when the pair are joined by Willie’s horror story of a mother, Sunny Soke, who raises the bar for the gang’s ambitions, while somehow lowering the standards of criminal behavior.

JACKSONVILLE- 11/21 REGAL BEACH BLVD 7:30PM
Jacksonville- http://broadgreenscreenings.com/BS2MMJax

MIAMI- 11/21 AMC AVENTURA 7:30PM
Miami- http://broadgreenscreenings.com/BS2MMMia

ORLANDO- 11/21 REGAL WATERFORD LAKES 7:30PM
Orlando- http://broadgreenscreenings.com/BS2MMOrl

TAMPA- 11/21 AMC WESTSHORE 7:30PM
Tampa- http://broadgreenscreenings.com/BS2MMTam

WEST PALM BEACH- 11/21 CINEMARK BOYNTON BEACH 7:30PM
West Palm Beach- http://broadgreenscreenings.com/BS2MMWPB

2016 New York Comic Con Review: Day 2

2016 New York Comic Con

Friday, October 7th 2016
Jacob K. Javits Center, New York, NY

Our Score: 3 out of 5 Stars

The Jacob K. Javits Center in the heart of New York City once again played host to the annual New York Comic Con on October 6th-9th where for four days the sprawling complex became the epicenter for all things comics and pop culture. The event which is now in its 10th year was once again put on by the Connecticut based company Reed Pop a company who puts on some of the largest pop culture events around the country. This year’s Con was no exception boasted appearances by some of the biggest names in comics, film and television.

For our coverage this year we chose to check out the events taking place on day two of the convention. Friday’s schedule included panels with the casts of “Steven Universe”, “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” and “Underworld: Blood Wars”. Autograph signings with “Game of Thrones” star Jack Gleeson, “Stanger Things” Millie Bobby Brown and David Harbour, comic creators Greg Capullo, former My Chemical Romance front man Gerard Way and making his final NY Comic Con appearance Stan Lee. Needless to say we were quite excited for the day’s events. Right off the bat the event seemed a bit different this year. Despite the entrances still being overly crowded causing extended wait times once you were inside the venue however, the normal wall to wall congestion seemed much lighter than in previous years. This could be related to the addition of several off site venues which were now hosting panels and screenings throughout the day and/or the newly introduced digitally monitored cue lines which were now required to attend a panel in hopes of alleviating chaotic line ups right before the start of an event. Though this alleviated some congestion it still created a number of new problems and a fair amount of confusion amongst attendees. The new offsite venues which included the Theater at Madison Square Garden and the Hammerstein Ballroom were welcome additions however they two weren’t without issue as once attendees left the main convention hall upon returning he or she would again need to wait in the entrance lines.

Despite the new changes and the fact that we probably weren’t going to be able to see as much as we had in years past we made our way to the main convention floor. As always it was like a bustling mini city packed to the rafters with everything from limited edition figures and books to unique clothing and tchachke’s. It also was the home to some of the pop industries biggest names including everyone from Marvel and DC to Funko and Lego. Displays ranged in sizes from the minute to the immense as each vendor uniquely showcased their latest and greatest products. The main floor is also a lot of fun because you never know who or what you are going to bump in to. This year we ran smack dab into WWE Hall of Famer Sting as he was shooting some segments for the WWE Network while showcasing some of the new WWE themed “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”. An area garnering a good share of attention but tucked back along the wall in an area known as “The Block” was promotion for the recently released “Shin Godzilla” film. The display which featured several posters for the film and lush red carpeting also included a chance to get your picture with the real life Godzilla! Ok maybe it was just a guy in a Godzilla suit standing in front of a backdrop but, it was still cool!

As we continued walking the endless isles and floors of the center we quickly realized that the day was quickly coming to an end and that our comic con adventure for 2016 was about over. Though we weren’t able to take in nearly as many panels as we had in previous years the added space to move around in between events was a welcome addition. The new digital cue system still could use some work however over time I think it will help make for a much more enjoyable con experience and one we will definitely being looking forward to for 2017.

Blu-ray Review “Now You See Me 2”

Actors: Morgan Freeman, Jesse Eisenberg, Daniel Radcliffe, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo
Directors: Jon M. Chu
Rated: PG-13
Studio: Lionsgate
Release Date: September 6, 2016
Run Time: 129 minutes

Film: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

“Now You See Me” was a good film…but it was not a film that was asking for sequel in any way. The only thing that the unnecessary sequel does is enlarge its cast. This time only with Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers), Woody Harrelson (The Hunger Games franchise), Dave Franco (Nerve), Michael Caine (The Dark Knight) and Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption). We get Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter franchise), Lizzy Caplan (Cloverfield) and Jay Chou (The Green Hornet) added to the magic show. Unfortunately it doesn’t have much magic up it sleeves like the first film.

Official Premise: The Four Horsemen (Eisenberg, Harrelson, Franco, Caplan) return for a second mind-bending adventure, elevating the limits of stage illusion to new heights and taking them around the globe. One year after outwitting the FBI and winning the public’s adulation with their Robin Hood-style magic spectacles, the illusionists resurface for a comeback performance in hopes of exposing the unethical practices of a tech magnate. The man behind their vanishing act is none other than Walter Mabry (Radcliffe), a tech prodigy who threatens the Horsemen into pulling off their most impossible heist yet. Their only hope is to perform one last unprecedented stunt to clear their names and reveal the mastermind behind it all.

The Blu-ray Combo Pack comes with a DVD anda also a Digital HD of the film. The 1080p transfer showcases the razzle dazzle of Las Vegas very well in its stylized feel. The Dolby Atmos track works great with the scale of the film and the presentation definitely delivers the magic unlike the film itself. In terms of special features, there is an audio commentary with the director as well as three behind-the-scenes featurettes, which dive into the making of the film and how the cast/crew learned the film’s magic tricks.

Film Review “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2”

Starring: Nia Vardalos, John Corbett and Michael Constantine
Directed by: Kirk Jones
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 1 hr 34 mins
Universal

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

In 2002, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” came out of nowhere to become one of the most successful, and beloved, romantic comedies of this young century. The film told the story of Toula Portokalos (Vardalos) and her search for love. The film ended with her marrying the very handsome Ian (Corbett) and living happily ever after in the house next door to her parents. 14 years later she’s still there.

If I had to sum up this film in one word it would be “familiar.” With most of the same cast doing a lot of the same things, the film depends a lot on the fact that you have seen the original. If not you won’t understand family patriarch Gus’ penchant for using Windex for everything, or why the hilarious Andrea Martin as Aunt Voula is the film’s comedic highlight. The story, in a nutshell: Toula and Ian have a teenage daughter. Her name is Paris (Elena Kampouris) and like other kids her age she’s looking for someone to go to prom with. School is hard because Ian is the principal. Toula continues to help out at the family restaurant, run by her parents. While Gus appears to be in charge, it is his wife, Maria (Lainie Kazan) that runs things. Proud of his Greek heritage, Gus is convinced that he is a direct descendent of Alexander the Great. In researching his family tree he finds his wedding certificate and notices that the priest that performed the service didn’t sign it. Does this mean he and Maria are not married? I sense a wedding in their future. Perhaps a big, fat Greek one.

If the film has anything going for it it’s the cast. As I said, many of the cast are from the first film and your familiarity with them is a plus. As a big fan of both Lainie Kazan and Michael Constantine, I enjoyed most of the film. As a couple they are perfectly matched, and even when they are fighting it’s easy to see the love. And the film is filled with everything Greek. From John Stamos, who is wasted in a cameo as the local weatherman married to Rita Wilson (who in real life is a full seven-years older than Stamos). The film also features a nice montage with the Billy Idol song “White Wedding” blasting out on a Greek bouzouki! Opa!

DVD Reviews “Kung Fu Panda 1 & 2: Ultimate Edition of Awesomeness”

In order to celebrate this week’s release of “Kung Fu Panda 3” (which is amazing BTW), Dreamworks Animation is re-releasing the first two “Kung Fu Panda” films with over 80 minutes of new bonus content including an all-new 22 minute animated adventure, “Secret of the Scroll,” and an exclusive sneak peek of DreamWorks Animation Kung Fu Panda 3 as well as Digital HD copies of each film.

Official Premises: In DreamWorks’ Kung Fu Panda, Jack Black is perfect as the voice of Po, a noodle-slurping dreamer who must embrace his true self – fuzzy flaws and all – in order to become the Dragon Warrior. Black reprises his role as Po in Kung Fu Panda 2, the fiercely funny Academy Award-nominated sequel. In his biggest challenge since becoming the Dragon Warrior, Po must lead his friends and fellow kung fu masters, The Furious Five, on a mission of epic proportions to defeat his most threatening rival yet!

This franchise features an all-star voice cast including Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Gary Oldman, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Michelle Yeoh, Danny McBride and Jean-Claude Van Damme. There is ZERO shortage of amazing talent in these films!

The special features included are a Martial Arts Awesomeness Music Video which features the best fight sequences in the beat of “Kung Fu Fighting”. “Mash-Up of Awesomeness: Slo-Mo” focuses the franchises more intense action scenes in slow-motion. There is a “Mash-Up of Blunders” which is basically a gag reel of Po’s most embarrassing moments. Lastly there is an all-new Kung Fu Panda 3 sneak peek with introduction by Jack Black rounding out the extras. If you have never purchased these films, might be a good time to pick them up!

Film Review “Ride Along 2”

Starring: Kevin Hart, Ice Cube, and Olivia Munn
Directed By: Tim Story
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 101 minutes
Universal Pictures

Our Score: 1 out of 5 stars

It was destined to happen. The first “Ride Along” made over $150 million on a meager 25 million dollar budget. So “Ride Along 2” seemed like a financial inevitability, especially with the recent star power behind Ice Cube’s name and the popularity of Kevin Hart at the box office. 2015 was the year of Hart and Cube helped put together the Oscar-nominated “Straight Outta Compton”. That’s enough praise, because now I’m going to talk about “Ride Along 2”, the laziest follow-up the duo could have done.

Ice Cube and Kevin Hart just can’t work well for a second straight time. Maybe they can’t find the right balance of chemistry or maybe everyone else involved was too busy seeing dollar signs. If you’re going to see “Ride Along 2”, you know the shtick and the comic routine, and by now it’s getting old. Hart plays Ben, a goofy, loveable guy that squeals a lot, is the butt of short jokes, and is about as useful as a Keystone cop. Then there’s Cube, who plays James, a rough edged, no games cop that merely reacts to Ben’s ineffectiveness. We’ve seen this before. It only gets worse.

Ben is no longer trying to be a cop, he is a cop; kind of. He’s in training, but still manages to bungle a sting operation and still applies random useless video game knowledge to real life scenarios. James still gets frustrated and still doesn’t believe Ben is a real cop. James hopes to bring down a drug Lord that’s supplying dealers in Atlanta with supplies; while once again, Ben hopes to tag along. James gets the idea of scaring Ben straight, or at the very least getting him to give up on his dream, by bringing him along to Miami to chase down a mysterious kingpin. I contemplated copying and pasting my review from two years ago since this is the regurgitated plotline of the first.

Overall, “Ride Along 2” isn’t insultingly bad, but it’s biggest problem is that it’s indolent. It never fixes the problems that were seen in the previous installment, nor does it try to do anything new. Not even the smallest of endeavors is seen in the 101 minute runtime. The appearance of Olivia Munn and Ken Jeong are much appreciated, especially Jeong who appears to be the only one who’s willing to have a fun with his bits. Munn simply appears as eye candy, another person who can physically hurt Ben and a love interest for James.

I hate to say it, but I now reflect back on the first movie in a more gentle tone. If you haven’t seen the original, just ignore everything I just said and go about your merry life, not knowing about the trivial attempt at a sequel this movie was. But if you did see the original two years ago and enjoyed it to some extent, steer clear if this cash grab. Nearly everything in this movie is a rehash, except the salary for our leading stars.

Film Review “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2”

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth
Directed By: Francis Lawrence
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 137 minutes
Lionsgate

Our Score: 3 out of 5 Stars

It’s a sad day for diehard fans of the “Hunger Games” series, while people like me will remember it for its long drawn-out speeches about war and the long clarifying conversations about the plot after heroine wakes up after getting knocked out. The conclusion to the much beloved series doesn’t go out with a whimper, but it doesn’t go out on a high note either. The “Hunger Games” movies will end as they started, just alright; nothing spectacular.

“Mockingjay – Part 2” picks up right after the ending events of “Mockingjay – Part 1”. Peeta (Hutcherson) has been brainwashed by the Capitol and Katniss (Lawrence) is in shock that man she once began to develop feelings for expresses hate and displeasure to the mere sight of her. Meanwhile the resistance, made of all the Districts, is planning their final assault on the Capitol. They’re led by the suspicious President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore).

Coin plans to keep Katniss safe and out of harm’s way, mainly wielding Katniss as a propaganda piece, much like Katniss was in the first “Mockingjay” movie. That doesn’t sit well with Katniss who stows away, joining soldiers on the front line as they prepare for an invasion. Her ultimate goal for this final chapter is to kill President Snow (Donald Sutherland) with her own bow and arrow.

The real fun, a block by block journey through the heart of the Capitol while alluding deadly booby traps and fighting creatures, doesn’t come until we trudge through long bits of tediously familiar dialogue. The middle of “Mockingjay” should have come sooner, or at least began the movie. Teasing the inevitable action for half an hour is disingenuous for fans and viewers of the movies, adding to the complaint that the “Mockingjay” sequel is too long. While parts of “Mockingjay” work on a superbly entertaining level, too much of it feels like unnecessary filler.

The excessive length takes away from the main theme of the movie, which is fairly basic: war is hell. For being a somewhat anti-war movie, it seems to solve a lot of its problems through violent conflict and murder. The hell aspect of that statement gives viewers some of the series best emotional scenes. The mature content of how painful and heartbreaking war can be, isn’t explored enough. Its message about how difficult the civilian toll during war can be, on either side of the battle, is sandwiched between expositions, taking away from the gut punch it should be. For a series that prides itself off its adult themes, it seems to misjudge how to present its most interesting topic in its final movie.

Overall, I’m not disappointed that I watched these movies. At times I quite enjoyed them, and I think that the series has multiple, bold adult messages directed at an audience with a young, developing mind. Like the others, I have to praise the acting throughout. It’s the best of any young adult franchise, save for the “Harry Potter” series. At the end of the day though, “Harry Potter” handled the split of its final book into two movies, incredibly well, while “Hunger Games” overcompensated for how much content they had to stretch into four hours. “Hunger Games” is another instance where the story would have been much better off as one impactful final movie than two alright flicks.

Digital HD Review “Silicon Valley: Season 2”

Starring: Thomas Middleditch, T.J. Miller, Zach Woods, Martin Starr, Kumail Nanjiani, Matt Ross, Amanda Crew and Josh Brener
Creator: Mike Judge
Rating: TV-MA
Studio: HBO Studios

Season: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2 out of 5 stars

Whatever Mike Judge touches is instant gold. Season one of “Silicon Valley” was a real blast to watch. It was smart and very funny. Well, Season two didn’t just improve on the first, it trumped it. The show delivers non-stop laugh out loud moments and introduces my new favorite character Russ Hanneman played by the amazing Chris Diamantopoulos. This is no question one of the best shows on television right now and I am glad to report that HBO has already renewed “Silicon Valley” for a third season, so keep an eye out for more next year.

Official Premise: After taking the tech world by storm with their debut at TechCrunch Disrupt last season, Richard and his Pied Piper team look ahead to a big future–one that’s immediately soured by legal woes and petty revenge plans from Hooli overlord Gavin Belson–in Season 2 of Mike Judge’s hit HBO comedy series. This season, Monica finds herself torn between her allegiance to Richard and her job working under a new head honcho; meanwhile, the presence of Richard’s departed longtime pal Big Head looms large, as Gavin decides to use him to his fullest potential.

Redeemed through VUDU, there are two additional extras included. The first is a preview the season with Erlich, Richard and other characters from the series discussing season 2 of the show. There is also an extra called “Invitation to the Set”, which features Mike Judge and the stars of the show discuss what to expect season 2. iTunes has a few other extras included but that is all for VUDU. HBO still has yet to deliver the extras digitally that are available with their Blu-ray/DVD releases.  Currently at this time there is no Blu-ray/DVD release date for season 2 of “Silicon Valley”, so if you want to see it and don’t have HBO, then I would definitely recommend checking out the Digital HD streaming option.