Blu-ray Review: “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania


In 2012, Sony Animation struck gold when they debuted their own unique horror-inspired family movie, Hotel Transylvania. The quirky, fun comedy united the talents of Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Kevin James, Selena Gomez, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, and Jon Lovitz — to name a few. The success of the movie went on to spawn three sequels, the latest of which released last year exclusively to Amazon Prime as an “Amazon Original.” Although I did enjoy the first 2012 film, I was never able to get my hands on any of the sequels before, and so when 2022’s Hotel Transylvania: Transformania (AKA Hotel Transylvania 4) was sent to me, it was the first time I was seeing something new featuring these characters in the 10 years since I saw the first movie. With that said, I can’t say anything about the second and third entries, but as a sequel to the original, Transformania certainly feels like the stereotypical superfluous fourth entry.

One thing that never bodes well for a sequel to an animated movie is when two of the central cast don’t return. Comedians Adam Sandler and Kevin James both don’t return as Dracula and Frankenstein, respectively. Dracula is really the film’s central character, alongside Andy Samberg’s Johnny and Selena Gomez’ Mavis, so it’s kind of surprising to find the movie’s main star sitting this one out. However, this is the first movie in the series to bypass theaters altogether and go straight to streaming (which is ultimately today’s version of a movie going straight-to-video). Those not willing to spring for a subscription to Amazon Prime just to watch this fourth entry to the franchise can finally access the movie through all digital retailers or grab it on disc. Unfortunately, as the movie started, I got the vibe pretty quickly as to why Sandler and James are absent… this is basically the kind of sequel you’d expect to go straight-to-video.

Then again, to be fair, adults aren’t the intended audience for a movie like this one. While I remember really enjoying the 2012 original — since many animated movies these days really work for all ages — there’s a pretty good chance Hotel Transylvania 4 is deliberately crafted to appeal to a younger audience. With that said, Hotel Transylvania 4 finds Johnny and Mavis in line to inherit the hotel from Dracula, however Drac is having second thoughts and invents a nonsensical rule that says only a monster can inherit the hotel. Johnny turns to unhinged scientist Van Helsing who uses a ray on him to turn him into a monster. Drac tries to undo this, but accidentally turns many of the monsters in the hotel into humans instead. Events that unfold find a few of the gang hitting the road on a quest, forcing Drac to do some much needed – although entirely unexpected – soul searching along the way. This makes for some decent emotional beats that help make the movie just a tad better than it deserves to be, but its cheap crude gags and corny humor keep Hotel Transylvania: Transformania from being more than just a forgettable entry in the saga. Don’t get me wrong; Hotel Transylvania: Transformania does have its moments. It’s silly and still a little entertaining — even if adults are less of the intended shared audience this time. Brian Hull replaces Adam Sandler as Drac, and does a pretty decent job making you forget you’re not actually listening to Sandler’s performance. Still, knowing we have a bit of an imposter voicing such a now-familiar character cheapens the overall feel of the movie. It also doesn’t help that little-known voice actor Brad Abrell is taking over for Kevin James as Frankenstein. Considering that Abrell’s most known role is of the “Worm Guy” in the first three Men in Black movies isn’t all that reassuring. But with Frankenstein having little impact of the plot of this entry, it’s probably a bit more forgivable. The fact Andy Samberg is back as Johnny and Selena Gomez as Mavis certainly helps things, but Johnny seems more annoying as this stage in the story than I previously recall. The animation style is of the more hyper and spastic variety, even to the point where I felt it making me a bit anxious. Sometimes this approach works fine for the story, but overall, I felt it detracted. Hotel Transylvania: Transformania‘s content warrants the PG rating — mostly because a lot is made of the fact that the Invisible Man is naked all the time while invisible. So, when we see him in the flesh finally, we’re given several views of his bare butt, and then several shots where something is shown barely covering his naked crotch. It’s played for laughs, but the gag wears thin pretty immediately. It’s kind of interesting when Dracula becomes mortal, because he finds he can finally relate to Johnny being human and lacking any kind of magical powers. While the transforming element drives the plot in an emotional way for Dracula’s story arc, it’s ultimately used as a gimmick for all the other monster characters. The only other content to be cautious about is some mild language, especially a moment where some wolf children accidentally rearrange some letters in a “Happy Anniversary” sign to “A Very Phine As…” and Drac scrambles to stop them before another “S” is tacked onto the end there. (And for a split second — you’d have to pause it to see this — you can see the letters kind of disjointedly arranged in that order.)


Hotel Transylvania: Transformania is a pretty unnecessary sequel, but it gives fans a fourth chance to see these beloved characters together once more. I don’t know if this is intended to be a final chapter or not, but it could work well as a last entry, but is left open just enough if they decided to continue it. My opinion, though, is this is probably a good opportunity to let the characters of Hotel Transylvania checkout before they’ve officially worn out their welcome. Two out of five stars ⭐️ ⭐️

4K Review: “Fast X”


It’s hard to believe that The Fast and the Furious franchise kicked-off 22 years ago with a simple little movie about the Los Angeles street-racing scene. It made stars out of Vin Diesel and the late Paul Walker.  From there the street racing moved to Miami and then Tokyo. However, something shifted after that. We got a mediocre fourth film that reunited the original cast, but Fast Five took things in a whole new and exciting direction. Fast & Furious was no longer about racing. Justin Lin brought the series into a big budget action spectacle. Things continued to shine with the sixth and seventh films, which was also where we said goodbye to Paul Walker. Unfortunately, the next two installments and the Hobbs & Shaw spin-off did very little to keep the series feeling fresh. Here we are now with Fast X, the tenth film and the one that kicks off the three-film finale. While the latest installment is basically 141 minutes of pure dumbness, it takes a few steps into course-correcting the wayward series.

The first thing is tying the events of the series best, Fast Five to this one. However, the big difference between the latest film and all of the ones that came prior, is that for the first time, we get a fun villain. Jason Momoa plays Dante, the son of Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida). When Dominic killed the elder Reyes at the end of the fifth film, he had no idea that his somewhat psychopathic son would eventually come for revenge. Few years have passed since the events of the last film. Dominic Toretto is living in his family home with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and their son Brian (Leo Abelo Perry). Things are going along nicely. Even Abuelita (Rita Moreno) swings by to visit with her family. Things don’t stay nice for long. When Toretto’s team go to Rome for a mission, they soon discover it was a setup. Dante was there waiting, and Dom’s family was the bait he needed. It turns out that Dante went after Dom’s other nemesis, Cipher (Charlize Theron) to grab the God’s Eye, which is a piece of tech that can track anyone in the world, including Dom’s son. Since family is the most important thing to him, you know what that means.

Much like the last few films, there is a ton of globetrotting going on and way too many characters. Jason Statham’s Shaw and his mother Queenie (Helen Mirren) are only in the film for a matter of minutes. However, it is made clear that they will have larger roles in the upcoming films. Like usual, Roman (Tyrese Gibson) is given the funniest lines. John Cena’s Jakob is much more entertaining as the good uncle here than he was as the villain in the last film. While Brie Larson can handle the action for sure, I would like to see her character given a little more of a punch up. Fast X is heavy on the action, as one would expect. Some of the CGI explosions are distractingly bad, including the big one in Rome and the final act drive down an exploding dam. I still can’t help but laugh at how Dom never has a single scratch. No human could take the kind of physical punishment he takes.  Louis Leterrier (The Transporter) took over directing duties when Lin suddenly left production. He is a proven capable action director and definitely a good fit for the franchise. Still, it is Momoa who truly saves the day here. He adds such an abundance of life and steals every scene he is in.

The producers of the series finally figured out that for such a ridiculous series of films, you need an equally ridiculous heavy to deliver a true joygasm. Thankfully, Dante is not a one and done character. For the first time in years, I actually want to see what happens next. As expected, the 4K release of Fast X looks absolutely splendid. This is a big expensive franchise that takes us all around the world and gives us some great locations. Thanks to Dolby Vision and HDR, the vast number of colors and textures will make your eyes pop. A perfect example is when Dom shows up at a race in Brazil, where he meets Dante for the first time. All the pretty cars, lights and people take full advantage of what Dolby Vision has to offer. Of course, for audio, the Dolby Atmos track is no slouch either. If there is one thing this franchise takes seriously, is its’ sound design (probably one of the only things it takes seriously). A lot of guns, engines and explosions. Plus, of course the always consistent soundtrack. Vin Diesel’s voice alone demands Atmos. While this series has its’ ups and downs, there is no denying the presentation rocks, even if the film doesn’t. Three out of five stars ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️

Blu-ray Review: “Kandahar”

 There’s a method to the madness that makes a great chase movie. In the strictest sense, it’s “Get characters from Point A to Point B” and have them avoid the deadly obstacles in between. It’s that gray area of “obstacles” that can muddy the waters a bit. Sometimes there doesn’t even need to be a Point B so long as our heroes are moving and out-maneuvering the villain. The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Mad Max: Fury Road, Apocalypto, Duel, the list of great chase movies is a long one, but even longer is the list of mediocre-to-bad chase movies where the setup is there, but the middle guts never quite come together. Sadlym Gerard Butler and Ric Roman Waugh’s latest adventure Kandahar falls in that latter category. Although I admit the film does have its intense moments.


International man of mystery Tom Harris (Leonidas) just completed a mission posing as a Swiss telecom company wiring in new high-speed internet lines to Iran. His target was to implant a bug into the wiring so the CIA could permanently disrupt a nearby nuclear facility’s capacity to enrich uranium. Mission complete, he’s ready to tackle one more mission and go home, but thanks to a mole in the CIA, reporter Luna Cujai (Nina Toussaint-White) has obtained sensitive documents about the mission. When those details are broadcast across the globe on every major news network, Tom’s cover is blown. In less than forty hours, Tom and his interpreter ‘Mo’ (Navid Negahban) must travel 400 miles to a rescue flight that will be on the ground for less than a minute with every mercenary and assassin hot on their heels.


With Kandahar, I actually ran into two hang-ups. Hang-up one for Kandahar hits early and that has more to do with poor timing. This film is nuts and bolts nearly the same flick as Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant,  which I conveniently saw just a couple of days before viewing this film. “Soldier X partners with interpreter to get across country under fire – GO!” Kandahar is “Spy X partners with interpreter to get across country under fire – GO!” So familiarity with another film is hangup number one.


Hang-up number two for me is this film just doesn’t do anything interesting with its time. I hadn’t seen the trailer before going in so I was as cold as could be, but as soon as Gerard Butler’s Tom Harris is revealed (which is pretty much right away), I knew exactly where it was going to go. You could practically have Terry Bradshaw and Troy Aikman play-call the pregame and this screenplay by Mitchel Lafortune wouldn’t deviate a beat.


Through the heaps of familiar plot points, character setups, and action set pieces, I did think the film was entertaining, just not amazing. As I said, Kandahar isn’t going to win points for originality, but I admit I was interested, invested, and ultimately entertained with the venture. The interplay between Butler and Negahban is the biggest strong point of the film and helped it salvage any sense of urgency. I’ll say The Covenant did a better job with the concept, but if you’re aiming for some easy entertainment this should hold your attention. Just don’t expect to remember much when it’s all over.


As far as middling predictable action movies go, Kandahar isn’t the worst or best but still pretty good. I mean, if you want a better version of practically the same story, check out The Covenant. I was hoping this would have been better given Butler’s more recent action output, but this is perfectly serviceable if unmemorable entertainment. On Blu-ray, the film scores a respectable A/V presentation with a nice sharp and clear picture and an engaging audio mix. Bonus features simply don’t even exist. Not a terrible movie by any stretch, but this one didn’t hook me like Plane or other recent Butler outings. Three out of five stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Blu-ray Review: “Knights of the Zodiac”

Live-action adaptations of animated films and series have succeeded in Japan, but few have overcome the transition to Hollywood. For every Alita Battle Angel there is Ghost in the Shell, Dragon Ball Evolution, and Death Note. The cultural barrier aside, there has never been the right balance between ambition and execution. Sony’s Knights of the Zodiac is a valiant attempt to bring the Saint Seiya animation to life with a modest budget and recognizable actors just below the A-list. The result is a visually impressive movie with some franchise potential that ends up being squandered by a bland screenplay that barely scratches the surface of the vast mythology from the long-running Saint Seiya manga and animation series.

While the original manga consisted of 28 volumes published over four years, the Saint Seiya animated franchise is comprised of 315 episodes across seven series along with six feature films released from 1986 through 2022. Knights of the Zodiac is the first live-action take on the series in any language which means this film is highly anticipated internationally. Filmed entirely in English with an international cast from across the globe, Knights of the Zodiac streamlines the vast storylines from the animated and manga into an origin story that attempts to simplify the concept into a digestible scale. In Knights of the Zodiac, Seiya is played by Mackenyu (the son of the legendary Sonny Chiba). Seiya makes ends meet as a low level fighter for Cassios (Nick Stahl) when he is pulled away by Alman Kiddo (Sean Bean), a scientist who explains about the impending reincarnation of the goddess Athena. Currently dormant in the body of Sienna (Madison Iseman), Athena must be protected by powerful knights and Kiddo belieces Seiya is the Pegasus Knight. Kiddo needs Seiya to protect Sienna from the evil Guraad (Famke Janssen) who wants her dead. Reluctantly, Seiya agrees and begins to unlock his gifts and abilities.

Within minutes, Knights of the Zodiac defines its tone with tedious dialogue that does not match the abilities or presence of the actors delivering it. In their first sequence together, Nich Stahl and Mackenyu give steely-eyed stares at each other and engage in a solid fight sequence choreographed by Andy Cheng. Cheng gives the numerous fight scenes a balance of ethereal power reminiscent of wuxia movies along with the expected tracers, shadows, and glowing energy from animated fare. The combination makes for action that varies from living cartoon to cartoonish and silly. When Knights of the Zodiac is heavy in martial arts and battles, it looks great. When it slows down to a crawl with exposition-heavy moments, the film drags and cannot overcome the weakness of the dialogue. With references to Greek dieties and the film’s silly name for powers (“Cosmos”), Knights of the Zodiac cannot quite reach the suspension of disbelief we offer Marvel and DC adaptations.

Of the cast, everyone is bought into the silliness of the material, but some carry it better than others. Mackenyu makes for a decent leading man, but his line delivery is often wooden and dull. Similarly, Madison Iseman makes for a more energetic performance as Sienna/Athena, but she is mired in scenes of her sitting around convulsing or wearing one of multiple over-the-top wigs. Nick Stahl does his best as a secondary villain with wasted screen time while Diego Tinoco is meant to be the primary antagonist but his delivery is often laughable. Of the veteran performers, Sean Bean has the least to do and is included more for exposition than anything. Mark Dacascos is underused as well but his placement hints at more should sequels get made. Caitlin Hutson delivers a solid, masked performance as Marin the Eagle Knight. Famke Janssen (whom I personally have a slight crush on) is the best aspect of this adaptation as Guraad, the villain and one of the sole characters of the cast to get a complete arc through the movie.

Director Tomek Baginski, whose credits are primarily on animated shorts and video game intros, does his best with what he is given, but much of this film looks like a cutscene from any number of Playstation video games. The green screen is obvious through the entire final act which is supposed to be the set-piece this movie is built around. While the training scenes and dream sequences benefit from the special effect work, the finale is mired in so many computer generated effects that it undermines the action itself. The cinematography by Tomasz Naumiuk replicates the slow motion and sharp angles of anime films but falls prey to overuse as the film plods through its two hour run time. Even the music by Yoshihiro Ike, which at times is quite stirring, feels out of place and drowns out some dialogue and ruins the rhythym. There is so much set up in this film that is designed to support further sequels that they didn’t manage to give this movie a heart of its own.

Knights of the Zodiac ultimately does not leverage the vast potential of the Saint Seiya source material despite a willing cast and a serviceable budget. While the actions sequences are well choreographed and special effects start out strong, the movie fails to capture enough energy or charisma from the main characters. When your villain has more presence than your hero, your story is in trouble. Had this movie invested in being an animated epic come to life, like the Wachowskis’ Speed Racer, it may have worked. Otherwise, it should have gone as gritty as Robert Rodriguez did with Alita Battle Angel. As it stands, Knights of the Zodiac looks and feels like a compromise designed to kickstart a franchise that seems unlikely to happen.

Finally let’s discuss the video performance, which is very good. Blu Ray picture is bright and sharp. There are plenty of visual effects to show off the strength of Blu Ray. Sound is amazing as the disc encompasses at Dolby 5.1 mix with plenty of LFE (subwoofer) activity. I’d be interested in checking out a 4K copy (not really sure if it really exists). In short, Knights of the Zodiac will give your system a great workout. 

Blu-ray Review: “The Pope’s Exorcist”

Starring Russel Crowe, “The Pope’s Exorcist” casts out tone and horror surprises. Instead of jump scares and body distortion, this film relies on psychological horror keeping things grounded rather than providing action beats every few minutes. The result is something special with a fantastic performance from Crowe. This 1080p HD transfer looks stunning in the darkness and the DTS-HD 5.1 audio mis sounds even better. So, wait until night and turn off all the lights because this horror film is a stunner. 

The number of demonic possession films is staggering these days. Ever since “The Exorcist” was released in theaters in 1973, many filmmakers have tried to capitalize on both the financial and critical success it conjured up fifty years ago. Some have stood the test of time and others haven’t. One thing is for sure though, the recent possession movies were more related to showcasing jump scares and strange body movements for cheap audience reactions. While some of those work, most are immediately forgotten with a laugh and an eye roll. This is not the case with “The Pope’s Exorcist,” which takes its cues from the original “Exorcist” film in terms of its tone and grounded character work. Like “The Exorcist,” this particular movie draws from real experiences, particularly a real-life Catholic priest named Father Gabriele Amorth who was the Chief Exorcist of the Vatican. Russell Crowe plays the role of Amorth with such class and vigor during those climactic moments that it proves that Crowe has not lost one step in his perfected craft over the years. This priest is a charismatic man who must save a young boy who is possessed and is being hidden from the church to prevent mass hysteria. Again,  “The Pope’s Exorcist” doesn’t mess about with a possessed person climbing the walls like an insect or contorting their bodies into unnatural positions. This focuses more on the back and forth between the human and the demon, while each sits down and verbally fights trying to outsmart the other. Being a demon though, allows for certain hidden truths to appear within Amorth and the boy’s family, which ultimately try and tear a banded team of God from completing the exorcism – something that was shown in the original Exorcist. These scenes are terrifyingly brutal and breathtaking all at the same time. For horror fans though,  “The Pope’s Exorcist” is a breath of fresh air where jump scares and those usual suspected elements don’t creep up to bring the film to a downgraded action romp. This is character driven with some elements of horror to keep things on pace. Crowe is delightful and the psychological horror of his relationship to this demon and to the church is poignant and relates to how the church might act today if something of this caliber were to go down. It’s a horrifying story, one that is true that the filmmakers kept their class telling it correctly without all the hoopla of a modern-day action horror flick. It’s grounded and scary and should satisfy those horror buffs out there. 

In closing, “The Pope’s Exorcist” is a surprisingly great and  grounded horror film which relies on character development and the psychological horror of the narrative rather than jump scares. The 1080p HD image looks great in its low light filters and the DTS-HD 5.1 audio sounds amazing

4K Review: “INSIDIOUS” – Special Steelbook Edition

“Insidious” haunts the home video space once again after a long absence with a brand new 4K image with Dolby Vision/HDR and a new fantastic-sounding Dolby Atmos track. All of this is located in a sleek new Steelbook with new artwork and a Digital Code. Truly a must for fans! A film that was released over 12 years ago, “Insidious” is a horror movie that created a worldwide phenomenon in horror. It spawned a franchise and movie universe in the horror realm that is still very much alive today and could be said to have reignited those ghastly and terrifying moments of joy for horror. Still after all these years, Insidious is a fun and scary movie with great performances and spooky visuals that can’t be unseen. It’s held up strong and should continue to do so. 



Here we have a middle-class family being upset by a ghastly presence. At first, the family seems to think that it’s the house that’s haunted. But after relocating, it is revealed that it’s it isn’t the house that’s haunted but one of the family members! And hence, the dark underworld has formed an insidious plot to do its ghastly deeds. 

Granted, this particular film isn’t all that different from the neo-horror films, depending heavily on standard spooky devices like the random, unexplained sounds around the house, or the sudden, disturbingly-loud increase in the musical score. But director James Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell, who also partnered to kick-start the ‘Saw’ franchise, balance those scenes with plenty of visual creepiness. When the screeching cries of the house alarm goes off, dad (Patrick Wilson) runs downstairs to find the front door inexplicably wide open, as if someone ran out quickly (or ran in). Mom (Rose Byrne) sees faces standing over the baby’s crib and the figures of people walking around the house. There are no fake scares here. Filmmakers construct a thick air of alarm and go straight for the throat in order to startle and horrify. But before we even arrive at that point, Wan establishes a frightful, disconcerting atmosphere very early on. The instant the movie’s already ominous title occupies the entire screen like demonic vertical scratches, the room is saturated with piercing music which warns that something sinister this way comes. It feels like a clever combination of ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘The Omen’ with a subtle pinch of Hitchcockian suspense. Things really only start getting weird, however, after Dalton’s (Ty Simpkins) harmless accident in the attic strangely leads to a mysterious coma. The family’s torment grows progressively worse until we eventually find ourselves in an exceedingly fun haunted house thrill ride, which reminded me greatly of Knott’s Halloween Haunt back in their heyday. ‘Insidious’ also comes with an equally fun throwback feel to some classic paranormal flicks of decades ago, as if possessed by them but in a way that still feels original and terrifying. Tobe Hooper’s ‘Poltergeist’ is most obvious when Lin Shaye’s clairvoyant medium, Elise Reiner, shows up and gives proper explanation to the strange occurrences surrounding the family. Shaye is quite good in her portrayal, but the role and the things the character can do somehow seem limited so as to create a convenient excuse for dad saving the day. The movie also seems to sidestep ‘The Amityville Horror’ and goes for more of the classic scare stylings akin to ‘Legend of Hell House’ and ‘The Shining.’ And it’s all the better for it, because it delivers on what it promises – a frightfully atmospheric good time. I imagine there will be some serious nitpicks, namely the second half not quite living up to the first, but frankly, without some of that discussion on astral projection, the visually cool trip through “The Further” would not be possible. Besides, the old woman in the black wedding dress more than makes up for any shortcomings. The lipstick-face demon not so much, but he’s still sort of cool to look at. In the end, ‘Insidious’ is a slow-burning tension builder overflowing with hair-raising, spine-tingling atmosphere which can proudly sit alongside such paranormal horror classics as ‘The Innocents’ and ‘The Sentinel.’ 


Bottom line, if you don’t own the Blu Ray of “Insidious,” then the 4K UHD is a great addition to your collection (providing you’re a horror fan). Even if you have the Blu Ray, the 4K upgrade is well worth it. This film is dark most of the time and there are some imagery that can be seen clearly only with 4K Blu Ray. Such as the visitor in Dalton’s room, where he is more pronounced on 4K. “Insidious” is a great horror film. 

Blu-ray Review: “Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves”


Roll for charisma, strength, wit, action, adventure, humor, and excitement with “Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves!”  Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, and Hugh Grant headline a genuinely fun and wildly entertaining should-have-been-huge blockbuster – and you don’t have to be a “Dungeons and Dragons” fan to enjoy it. One of the most popular franchises of all time in tabletop gaming finally gets a genuine crack at a truly cinematic adaptation. After the disastrously bad 2000 film, the likes of a “Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” felt like a long shot. Thankfully as the gaming community has grown exponentially over the last two decades, the time was right for a new take on familiar material with a pair of filmmakers Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley who clearly love the source material but know how to make a film everyone can enjoy.
The film picks up with our clever hero Edgin (Chris Pine) and his warrior friend Holga Kilgore (Michelle Rodriguez) pleading their case for clemency having served two years in prison. After making a daring escape, the duo set off on a quest to recover a talisman of resurrection and reunite Edgin with his daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman). Only problem is their old friend Forge (Hugh Grant) has aligned himself with the evil red wizard Sofina (Daisy Head) to enrich his own pockets and keep the talisman for himself and Kira as his daughter. For our thieves to accomplish their mission they’re going to need a little help from the struggling magician Simon (Justice Smith) and the tiefling Doric (Sophia Lillis) to break in, rescue Kira, get the talisman, and maybe make off with Forge’s treasure if there’s time.
Some bad movies make gobs of cash at the box office while great flicks roll short. I don’t get why some movies are hits and others aren’t but “Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” deserved a bigger box office take than it managed to conjure up. Granted I am guilty of not seeing this film in theaters. Despite good reviews and word of mouth, I just couldn’t make time and then I was never really sold on the trailers. After watching through I feel the trailers did a pretty pisspoor job of showcasing exactly what this movie was going to be. Suffice it to say, I had a blast with this movie. Honor Among Thieves was far better than the movie the trailers sold. It’s also a damn shame Wizards of the Coast had their issues with D&D that may have influenced some true fans to stay away. Which is a damn shame because this movie is a love letter to gamers of all ages. Top to bottom the cast is great playing their respective roles and character functions with aplomb. It’s a grand fantasy with the scale of Lord of the Rings but the fun and excitement of a heist movie like Ocens11 and with the action of an Indiana Jones movie. My lone complaint really is that the film feels a little long and could have been tightened up a bit, but that’s a small triviality compared to the rest of the show. I do hope this film takes off on streaming and home video, I’m ready to roll again (sequel) with this particular band of heroes.
The Blu Ray is a marvel to behold, though I suspect that the 4K version is even better. Sound is wonderful even though with the Blu Ray, you don’t get a Dolby Atmos track. Still, it will give your speakers a great workout. The surround and front channels get plenty of attention for the biggest and most exciting action sequences – and there are a lot of those. From the opening escape to the dungeon pits to the final battle with Sofina, there are some great channel movement and object-based effects moving and swirling around the front/center, side, and rear channels.
If you’re in need of a damn good time at the movies, “Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” delivers.   You don’t need to play the game to feel the love and fun of gathering your best friends and allies for a grand adventure. The cast is great, the action exciting, and the jokes are genuinely funny. This should have been a bigger hit at the box office because we deserve a sequel. If you’re looking to add another disc to the collection, this Blu-ray conjures up a beautiful transfer and an amazing Dolby Surround mix. “Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” is a winner! 


Blu-ray Review: “The Woman King”

Based on the true events of the Agojie, an African legion of female warriors who protected their families and land from the ruthless slavers of the surrounding areas, “The Woman King” brings to life these powerful women to the big screen with some wonderful action sequences and an exquisite narrative on empowerment, family, and standing up to oppression no matter what the cost is. With a stellar cast and crew, “The Woman King” is a sweet and ferocious film that should not be overlooked.

This film allows director Gina Prince-Blythewood (her “Love and Basketball” has the honor of being released by the Criterion Collection) to showcase both sides of her creative endeavors. Her extraordinary ability to tell a soft and tender side of human nature and love while also revealing the true horrors of humanity with some gritty and well-executed action sequences that are all built around amazing performances from her cast including Viola Davis, John Boyega (Star Wars), Lashana Lynch, and Thuso Mbedu. The screenplay from Dana Stevens and her writing partner and actress Maria Bello gives ample time across its two-hour run time to explore each character with their struggles to survive and empower their families.

The Agojie were a real faction of strong, powerful women that protected their land and families, similar to the Dora Milaje from Black Panther or even the Amazons in Wonder Woman. Inside the African Kingdom of Dahomey, the leader named Ghezo (Boyega) has taken over where he must face two groups of people who have allied with European slavers in the 1800s. His army is the Agojie who is led by General Nanisca (Davis) who will do anything to protect their people and home. As a giant battle is brewing, Nanisca is training the new generation of warriors, one of which holds a secret about her past that might form a connection between the two of them.

Blythewood perfectly balances the action and chaos with scenes of tenderness and love between Nanisca’s tribe. The hierarchy of her world with their traditions are given areas to breathe that educate on what life was like back then in this part of the world. Attention to detail in the costumes and what happened in history make the moving parts of this story really shine since Maria Bello came up with the story when she traveled to this part of the world and toured the actual place where the Agojie set up shop.

“The Woman King” truly breaks the mold though with its incredible performances from Davis, Boyega, and everyone else involved. Not only do their physical performances turn into greatness, but their quieter moments of dialogue and true determination in empowering the new generation of fighters come across on screen flawlessly. It’s a great underdog story full of heart and emotion along with some exquisite action beats, all of which have that emotional heft with stakes that make the characters worth caring for. The Woman King is one hell of a great time that is full of inspiring moments and wonderful performances. I happen to enjoy it more at home than at the theater. No doubt I was tired. Very surprised it wasn’t nominated for Best Picture. Very Highly Recommended! Five stars ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Blu-ray Review: “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile”

Over the years there have been films/shows about talking animals but a singing crocodile? Would that really work?  Well…why not? First, make the large, green creature timid and sweet, give him a fantastic voice, and finally, throw in some original songs by one of the best music writing teams in the last decade.  That is the formula for a great movie and the idea behind this year’s Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile.  With a terrific cast, upbeat, pop tunes, excellent visual effects, and a teen idol, pop star (Shawn Mendes) to be the “voice” of Lyle, the movie was bound to be successful.  And when I learned that Javier Bardem was in this film, I knew then it would be special.

Discovered in a cage in the back of an exotic pet store, the singing crocodile was given the name, Lyle,  by his new owner, Hector P. Valenti (Javier Bardem; No Country For Old Men).  A showman by trade, Hector sees Lyle as an opportunity for fame and fortune.  However, after training and practicing for their big audition, Lyle suddenly has a case of stage fright and can’t perform.  Having put his house up as collateral, Hector is forced to leave Lyle alone in the attic while he tries to make some money.  While Hector is gone, a new family movies into the house with no idea that there is a giant, singing crocodile living upstairs.

Bardem offers audiences an opportunity to see a whole other side of himself.  As a dramatic actor, he can move an audience but as a singing and dancing comedic actor, he surprises viewers with how good he can be.  Constance Wu (Crazy Rich Asians) also reinvents herself showcasing her theater background by dancing and singing right alongside a crocodile.  Winslow Fegley (Come Play), the young brother of August and Oakes, is excellent as the young boy who discovers Lyle in the attic and befriends him.

Unlike many CGI characters, Lyle looks outstanding in 1080p resolution.  It is obvious the time and care was taken to create him was worth all the effort as his CGI presence doesn’t appear to distract the view in any way, shape, or form.  The color palette is bright and abundant enticing younger audiences to want to watch it over and over again.

While the visuals are excellent, the DtS-HD Master Audio 5.1 doesn’t fare quite as well.  Mendes has a distinct vocal sound and quality and most of the time that shines through, but there are one or two songs that sound muffled.  Otherwise, the dialogue and music are of decent quality offering much of what one would expect from this level of film.

There is a small amount of supplemental material and some are with watching, others could be watched once and be done with them.  Extras include: Sing-Along Songs, Storytime with Shawn Mendes & Javier Bardem, Deleted Scene, Croc, and Roll Take a Look at Us Now -The Cast, and Music Videos.

Based on a children’s book, Lyle, Lyle Crocodile was a solid choice to adapt to film, and today’s technology allows for creating something entertaining without looking cheap.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have the current ‘it’ musical team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (The Greatest Showman) pen some original songs for the film.  They are known for more upbeat, pop-sounding fare, and the songs in this movie are more of the same.  And when you have Shawn Mendes lending his vocal talent to that mix, you end up with a winning soundtrack that audiences could sing along with.

If you have young children at home, this is a no-brainer – go out and buy it today! Fun for the entire family. I thought the film was great! Three stars out of five. ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️

Blu-ray Review: “Bullet Train”



Ride or die! Heh-heh!  “Bullet Train” is basically John Wick on a train with a crazy cast of characters and falls into the more cartoony way of movies. There’s plenty of violence to go around, an awesome amount of gore, and some extremely funny lines and characters. It reminds me of “John Wick 3” in particular with similar production notes such as the abundance of colors and the well-choreographed fighting scenes. The Blu Ray picture and sound is nothing short of astounding! Bright neon colors are present from the start as intense purples, greens, blues, yellows, reds, and even pinks strike-through to make each train car look excellent. Flashback sequences go from a warm, orange-tinted look to a remarkable and blue-ish streak. Wardrobe colors, the big city lights at night, and the LED lighting of the train car interiors all look bold and full of life. It was truly a joy to behold.


This Blu Ray has an excellent Dolby Digital track! The sound effects are boisterous, robust, and continuously loud. These noises are nuanced and well-balanced in each speaker which flows smoothly in transitional sounds. Gun blasts, the fast traveling train herself, fight choreography, and glass bottles being broken all sound wonderful Explosions pack a loud punch as well. The low end of bass is booming with a smooth yet intense rumble that never has a rocky feel. The score and song cues are pitch-perfect that keep the film centered in its fun and entertaining atmosphere. The dialogue is always clean, clear, and easy to follow with no problems. The height speaker brings those sound effects from overhead, whether it be bullets flying by, rain, debris and body parts falling from above, and more. I really enjoyed watching this film! The Blu Ray is very well produced. 


Director David Leitch co-directed the original John Wick (which clearly shows) film which led to him making “Atomic Blonde,”  :Hobbs and Shaw” and “Deadpool 2” (which I enjoyed more than the 1st film!). Leitch even was a heavy-handed producer on “Nobody” as well. If those movies were all mixed together and blended into a high-octane cocktail, the result would be “Bullet Train.”  An intricate world of assassins, a deadly mission, brutal fight choreography, and a comedic and cartoony take on the action all make up this film. And the great thing is, that all these elements have congealed together to make this a blast of a viewing experience. The performances are energetic with wry humor and witty dialog. You’ll almost have to view it twice to appreciate the wry humor. It may strike the novice viewer as strange on the first viewing. 

“Bullet Train” is set on a high-speed modern train where a group of assassins is all tasked with retrieving a briefcase that belongs to an infamous yakuza boss. Nobody realizes other assassins are on the train at first, but as soon as eye contact is made, the violence ensues in bar cars, passenger cars, and even on the outside of the train. With a cast list that stars Brad Pitt, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Joey King, Brian Tyree Henry, Michael Shannon, Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum. “Bullet Train” could easily get lost in the star power. But this script allows some unique personalities to collide, all made accessible through the psychology and personality traits of Thomas the Tank Engine. Yes. that’s right! It’s easy to see where films like “Snatch,” “Kill Bill” and even animated shows heavily influenced the style of the movie with their “in-your-face” camera swoops and pans, along with graphics that display character names on the screen. A trademark of Michael Bay as well. Not only that, the breaking-the-fourth wall that is so popular in “Deadpool”  also peaks its head out from time to time. “Bullet Train” can feel a little tiresome in parts when the film often cuts back to tell a story from the past. It disrupts the film’s flow here and there, but when the action is once again centered on the train, the pace instantly picks back up. In its meta way, the characters make it all self-aware of these flashbacks and how boring they can be.

Finally, everyone here is performing at the top of their game and having the time of their lives cutting it all up on set. Pitt is believable as a violent assassin when he needs to be and quickly turns on the comedic charm every chance he gets. Johnson and Henry are the true stars of the film though with their budding relationship and volatile personalities. And of course, Joey King is always a joy to watch on screen as she changes her chameleon-like emotions with whoever she shares the screen with. Leitch has conjured up a super-fun time at the movies with an A-List cast. “Bullet Train” is enthusiastic, crazy, and a surprisingly amazing time. It’s violent, comedic, and an all-around great time. Let’s all hope there are sequels. Highly Recommended!

Blu-ray Review: “Sniper: Rogue Mission”


Probably figuring they could oh-so-subtly cash in on some Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation traffic by sticking “Rogue” and “Mission” in the damn title, the NINTH Sniper movie isn’t really a Sniper movie at all. Which, frankly may work to its advantage by deviating from mundane action movie structures and for the fact that it was probably just damn dumb luck it landed here, toying foolishly with absolute parody vibes. With a score that’s a flip between Desperado and an Ocean’s Movie and almost zero action, as well as a weird comedy edge and the cinematography you’d expect from an enthusiastic teen film student who’d suddenly discovered his iPhone cam zoom, Rogue Mission is insanely low budget trash; an absolutely monumental train wreck of a production that is almost impossible to turn away from for its 90 minute duration. I found myself wanting to switch off the Blu Ray playback but I wanted to see where the film was going and how it will get there.
After stumbling onto some sex trafficking thing, former sniper turned terrible CIA agent soon becomes ex CIA agent, so he sits in the kitchen of some rando tech nerd (is there any other kind in movies) with his old enemy Lady Death, and a Homeland Security Agent who clearly isn’t required to do any actual work for a living, for, oh, around 71 minutes until it’s time to spend the remaining $46 of the budget on a ‘showdown’ that also won’t require him to use a sniper rifle (I’m being facetious here). It’s amazingly hard to rate Sniper: Rogue Mission. It’s like a 1/10 movie, but it’s more unintentionally entertaining than a hell of a lot of 5 and 6/10 movies out there. It’s so cheap, and noisy, and bad… that’s it’s actually good. It’s nowhere near a guilty pleasure, absolutely nothing about this film was intentionally good, but the madly misguided enthusiasm thrown at every single aspect of this production makes it wondrously hilarious to watch. It’s almost as if the nobody director behind it shot the film with absolutely no idea what he was handling. No idea of the franchise, the preceding films, the characters, the general plots these features follow, or anything. So much so that he convinced himself he was shooting a low budget heist flick, replete with some imaginative filmmaking techniques and the most ridiculous score of the year. Sniper: Rogue Mission’s ‘high’ points include a spectacularly bad alley fight, which has the score to something like Desperado playing out over it, and drops into John Woo slo-mo upon the explosion of… a thrown rubbish bag. It’s epic in its unintentional humour, with zooms all over the shop, like watching a rip-off of a Sergio Leone standoff at x10 speed. Not enough? Well how about fabled Lady Death – trained to be an assassin from childhood – and some goon having a pistol shootout from behind post boxes on opposing sides of a street. Somebody get this director a copy of Naked Gun! Wait, we’re not supposed to be laughing? See that’s the thing about Sniper: Rogue Mission, it halfway tries to take itself seriously, which only makes it more funny!
In the background, returning Sniper series actor Dennis Haysbert, former President Palmer of 24, and veteran from the underrated David Mamet-crafted The Unit TV series, tries his best to almost pull off the movie’s only good scene. A single dialogue-driven confrontation between old spies, across a bar table. It’s almost tense. The silence, the stares, Haysbert’s inimitable tones. Then they drop the needle and a random score kicks in so loud you’re immediately knocked backwards – before the scene is even over – and you’re abruptly reminded that this isn’t even going to get one good scene. But it we do get a whole clutch of terrible ones that are so bad that you’ll be on the floor laughing at them. If you can see it, for free, whilst heavily intoxicated, then that’s a surprisingly recommended way to spend your time.
In conclusion, the film is laughably terrible but at the same time, irresistibly ridiculous. Truly one of the worst films I’ve seen. If there’s one redeeming quality of Sniper Rogue Mission, it’s knowing what to expect on my 2nd viewing. Then I can adequately prepare by slamming down a six-pack first. 

4K/Blu-Ray Review: “Morbius”



Sharing the same Universe as the recent “Venom” films, “Morbius” (known to Marvel Comics fans as Morbius: The Living Vampire) didn’t exactly light the world on fire commercially when it was released in early 2022. Criticized for its screenplay, performances, visual effects, and everything in between, it managed to eke out a tiny profit, but was nowhere near as successful as properties produced entirely by Marvel Studios. The film is meant to possibly set up a possible Sinister Six films (as evidenced by the awkward mid-credit scenes), but also lead into the world of Blade, with the possible inclusion of Spider-Man at some point. Nevertheless, Sony seems to have gotten off to an unfortunate start, releasing a series of films (Venom and Venom: Let There Be Carnage included) that don’t exactly match the quality of their Disney-owned counterparts. Even so, it’s good to see a franchise expand into different factions, much like the original comics, which went into a myriad of directions with multiple characters from varying storylines and universes. But at this juncture, Morbius is the least-accepted among the Sony-produced Marvel films.


Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) is a brilliant doctor and scientist afflicted with a blood illness that leaves him weak and unable to walk without assistance. He grows up in a hospital environment under the care of Dr. Nicholas (Jared Harris) alongside his friend and surrogate brother Milo (Matt Smith), who is also afflicted with the same disorder. He spends his life searching for a cure, revolutionizing medicine with the invention of synthetic blood, but it’s not enough. He eventually begins conducting secret, illegal experiments with vampire bats, making himself a guinea pig for testing. His experiments are a success, but the results transform him into a living vampire, equipped with superhuman abilities and a thirst for blood. Martine (Adria Arjona), a fellow scientist and close friend, discovers what Michael is doing and attempts to help him, but not before someone else steps in and helps themselves to the cure, performing the same feats and killing people in their wake. Hot on the trail are a pair of FBI agents, Rodriguez (Al Madrigal) and Stroud (Tyrese Gibson), and Michael must now focus all of his energies on undoing the effects of the cure while stopping whomever is framing him for murder.


The question at hand: Is “Morbius” as bad as the internet would lead one to believe? Of course not. It’s not the worst thing ever, but it’s not a home run either. It’s mediocre to poor for most of its running time, though it has some interesting ideas. But was this a case of a studio tinkering with their product to the point of nearly killing it prior to its release? Maybe. Judging by the multiple rounds of reshoots before it hit theaters, something certainly seems to have been amiss. It’s also not clear how much Sony knew about the outcome of Spider-Man: No Way Home since Morbius was originally meant to take place in the same universe. As evidenced by the end result, it doesn’t. Spider-Man is only mentioned once and Adrian Toomes’ character apparently had more interaction with Michael Morbius in the film’s first trailer. So was Marvel Studios up front with their Sony partners about the direction that the Spider-Man series would take? You be the judge.


In any case, “Morbius”is a terrible film for many people, so much so that internet trolls have inadvertently given the film a new life as a possible cult item. But whether it will reach the same plateau as the recent Cats film—similarly released, re-released, and adjusted by the studio before being laughed off of movie screens—remains to be seen. I personally found sections of the film to be mildly entertaining and others not so much, but it’s definitely not up to par.


“Morbius” was captured digitally in a variety of formats by cinematographer Oliver Wood (Die Hard 2, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, The Bourne Identity)  The film was finished as a native 4K Digital Intermediate at the 2.39:1 aspect ratio (which means it’s a digital film). The Blu Ray release isn’t quite as robust as its 4K Ultra HD counterpart, but it’s still strong. Because the film was shot in such high quality, the same excellent depth is on display. The CGI mostly blends with the live action elements, although a few sequences certainly stood out, including the opening moments of Michael standing outside of a cave filled with bats. Blu Ray detail is lessened in comparison to its 4K counterpart, but it’s still a great high definition presentation of the film.


The main audio option is English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The Dolby Atmos track included on the 4K Ultra HD release is a knockout and more powerful than this standard DTS-HD option, but it’s still a muscular track in its own right. Dialogue exchanges are clear and precise while the surrounding speakers are given plenty to work with, from quiet ambient moments to LFE-powered explosions and gun fire. Sound effects whiz by all around the sound stage while the score is offered an abundance of aural authority. In short, both soundtracks will give your system a great workout.


My conclusion, MORBIUS may be a good outing for die hard fans only, but for anyone else, it’s a sub-par film that truly has plenty of potential but fails to explore it. 

4K/Blu-Ray Review: “Ambulance”



 Michael Bay is a name you either love or hate. And many times, whether you love him or hate him depends on what movie of his you’re watching at the time. I personally love Bay. Back in the 90s and early 2000s he was the KING of “stupid”action movies. The Rock, Armageddon, Bad Boys, Bad Boys II: the list goes on and on and on. Heck, even the Transformers movies of his were mega blockbusters and good dumb fun until they got so repetitive that even this reviewer started to get weary of them. Well, after Transformers: The Last Knight in 2017 Michael Bay pretty much went radio silent as a director (outside of doing that Netflix exclusive 6 Underground back in 2020) and I thought he had pretty much run his course. Then I started hearing rumors this year of Bay coming back to what he does best, dumb comedy, and I was intrigued. At this point I was just a BIT worn out from his last several Transformers movies, but then I started hearing reports of how Ambulance was actually a fun movie, a huge hit, AND a return to form the master of explosions himself.


Now, I’m not exactly one to shy away from dumb action. I love Jake Gyllenhaal, I love explosions, and the trailer looked like a lot of fun, so when the disc came to review from my friend, I strapped in and just let the joyride begin. Our story starts out with a hardened EMT named Cam Thompson. She’s become jaded after having spent years saving people’s lives and letting them off at the hospital, but today she’s about to learn just why she does what she does. Segue over to our other main hero, Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), an ex-Marine who is up to his eyeballs in debt and no way to save his wife from dying of cancer without a big influx of cash. Luckily (or not so luckily maybe) for him, his adopted brother Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a prolific bank robber who Will has been staying away from for quite some time. Well, Danny boy has a job for Will and it’s enough to net them MILLIONS. It’s a simple bank robbery where they go in, get out, and get filthy stinking rich. Danny just needs a driver for his crew, and this is Will’s lucky day. Yeah, we already know that things don’t exactly go as planned. A teach of special SIS agents from the L.A.P.D. SWAT department have been keeping tabs of Danny’s crew for weeks, and upon exiting the building Danny’s men are mowed down in a hail of gunfire. However, Danny and Will make their escape by hopping on Cam Thompson’s Ambulance and using it to make a daring escape with $16 million worth of cash, lots of guns, and a wounded cop on board. The best way to describe Ambulance is that it’s part Bad Boys, part heist movie, and 3 parts Speed. 90% of the movie takes place withing the Ambulance as Will and Danny outrun cops, blow things sky high, and figure out a way to get the heck out of dodge and away with their money.


On the surface the movie is ridiculously dump and simple. It’s Speed with an Ambulance. Except there’s no Dennis Hopper maniacally keeping everyone on track, and Jake Gyllenhaal is absolutely hamming it up to level 11 as the loveable/hateable/psychotic/brilliant Danny Sharp. But Michael Bay is a skilled surgeon when it comes to doing pure action, and he’s right at home in his element here. Things blow up with such reckless abandon that I was laughing myself silly with this huge grin over my face the entire time. And Jake Gyllenhaal is such an insane villain/hero that you want him to die, but you want him to actually get away at the same time.


The charm is just delicious, with Michael Bay winking and nodding at his own films (they actually make jokes about The Rock and Bad Boys throughout the runtime) and while Danny is main attractant, Garret Dillahunnt almost matches Jake blow for blow with his over the top commando routine.


I’m gonna come out and say it. This is Michael Bay doing what Michael Bay does best. When they asked him “what kind of movie do you want Michael? Do you want to do Bad Boys? Do you want to do Speed? And how many explosions do you want”, his response had to have been “yes, all of it”. The movie is stupid, the movie is shallow, but it’s kept alive with sheer adrenaline and the charisma of everyone involved. I’m not wild about Yahya Abdul-Mateen the II, but he does well as Will, but it’s really Jake and Garret who just eat the scenery up like only Peter Stormaire can do in a Michael Bay film. Yeah, it’s not perfect, it gets a little hokey near the end, but Bay keeps the adrenaline pumping so hard and so fast that you don’t have time to slow down and analyze things to death. This is Bayhem with Baysplosions everywhere, and if you’ve seen his previous big name works, you know what the man is capable of. So buckle in and prepare for unlimited ammo, unlimited wise cracks, and a LOT of explosions.



Using a variety of RED cameras and finished in a native 4K master, Ambulance ROCKS onto 2160p with a stellar encode that blows the already great 1080p Blu-ray straight out of the water. The disc is just about perfect, with razor sharp details, incredible background shots, and nonstop kinetic movement that never gets blurry or artifacts. Quite literally this is one of the best looking encodes that I’ve seen in a long time, with only minor elements of softness when in Papi’s lair, or some of the CGI looking a little bit wonky in 4K. I didn’t notice banding or other major elements at play with the encode. HDR is silky deep, as the color tones tend to be cool blue or slightly amber, and bright red blood just splashes everywhere. The green of the spray paint over the vehicle stands out sharply and with deep saturation, and as I said, except for some mild haziness inside Papi’s lair, this is just about PERFECT.



Did I mention this was a Michael Bay movie? It goes without saying that this is a reference level Atmos mix that just tears the walls down with abject fury. The score pulsates with deep bass energy from the first few moments of the movie, and the sound stage is just awash with chaos, Bayhem and carnage from every angle. Bullets bounce off the car at the rear, ricochet to the front of the sound stage, all the while tires screech, the score throbs, and cars blow up upon impact at just about every facet of the run time. Yeah, this is pure Bay awesome sauce, and if you like them big, like them loud, and like the bass to just punish you brutally, then this is the mix for you.



Ambulance is silly, but it’s silly fun. I love it! High octane energy with Jake Gyllenhaal absolutely LOVING every second of his hammy role. It’s dumb fun, and dumb fun in a way that I haven’t seen for YEARS in cinema. Action movies have become so stale recently, that I really feel like this and Top Gun:Maverick pretty much saved cinemas. The 4K UHD disc is also nothing short of superb, with good extras, a killer video encode and a Michael Bay approved audio mix that will tear the walls down. Recommended as good sloppy Michael Bay fun. The Blu-ray is no slouch either, which tends to shine brighter than 4K but obviously less defined. Sound is great on Blu-ray but you only get the Atmos track on the 4K disc.


4K/Steelbook Review: “Heavy Metal”


Cult classic animated movie Heavy Metal makes its 4K debut with a new retrospective bonus feature, along with the film on Blu-ray that’s a port of the original high-def disc, complete with the extras it had at the time. The sequel, Heavy Metal 2000, is also included on a Blu-ray with a few bonus features, and you’ll find codes for digital copies of both movies.
Revisiting Heavy Metal for the first time in many years for this review, I’ll admit I cringed a bit when watching its portrayals of women. The film is very much a product of its era, when fantasy and science-fiction movies and comic books were full of scantily-clad women who resort to sex to get what they want. Sure, there were exceptions to that rule, but the Heavy Metal magazine that was the basis for the animated film was squarely in a male-dominated camp.
Taking its cue from characters and stories created by such luminaries as Richard Corben, Angus McKie, Dan O’Bannon, and Bernie Wrightson, Heavy Metal is an anthology film whose stories are connected by the presence of an evil green floating orb known as Loc-Nar. The framing story involves a girl whose astronaut father brings Loc-Nar home, only to have it kill him and terrorize her. The conceit is that the orb is showing the girl its travels through other planets before doing what it wants to her, unless she can end its evil reign.
The animation in the film is admittedly rough, even on this new 4K disc released by Sony, and some of it seems to have been heavily influenced by the artist Moebius, whose work was also a staple of the Heavy Metal magazine. The animation team used rotoscoping for many shots, a low-budget technique that consists of filming live-action actors and then tracing the images by hand – the animator Ralph Bakshi (Lord of the Rings) used it for many of his films of that era too.
However, one of the big attractions of Heavy Metal at the time was its soundtrack, which features songs by Blue Oyster Cult, Black Sabbath, Journey, Cheap Trick, Devo, and others who were in their heyday back then. That, combined with the fact that there weren’t a lot of adult-oriented animated films in the 70s and 80s, led to the film becoming a cult classic over the years, despite its lukewarm reception by critics of the time. Personally, I can enjoy the music and the animation while putting a big asterisk on the experience given its crude and juvenile approach to the subject matter. But like I said earlier, this is a product of it’s time.
Its status as a cult classic eventually led to a sequel, Heavy Metal 2000, that Sony also included with this release, albeit only on a Blu-ray platter. In addition, you’ll find a copy of Heavy Metal on Blu-ray with bonus features as well as codes for digital copies of both movies. Heavy Metal 2000 is more of the same in terms of the gratuitous sex and violence, although the animation is cleaner and there’s one storyline, rather than the anthology approach. Overall, though, it doesn’t live up to the expectations set by the original. But personally I found myself liking 2000 more probably because of the better animation.
The bulk of the bonus features in this SteelBook edition pertain to Heavy Metal, including a new nine-minute look-back with interviews from Ivan Reitman (who produced the movie and who died recently, unfortunately), filmmaker Kevin Smith, actor Norman Reedus, and others. It’s found only on the 4K platter, while the rest of the bonus features are on the Blu-ray, which I assume Sony did so they could simply reissue the original Blu-ray.
Heavy Metal may not be for everyone but for fans of animation and Rock, this is the best these films have been presented yet. The sound on both films are better than expected, with 2000 obviously being a bit better. These films also took me back to the great partial animated film PINK FLOYD THE WALL, perfectly blending imagery and rock music, which is directed by one of my favorite filmmakers Alan Parker. I am eagerly awaiting for that film to get the luxurious 4K edition release! 
Original ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️ 2000 ⭐️⭐️⭐️

4K Review: “Uncharted”


I’ve only excelled at two video games in my entire life: Virtua Fighter by PlayStation and any of the Gran Turismo games for the PS2. Yep, that’s it. That’s not to say that I’m bad at others, I can button mash with the best of them, but I’ve just never really been much of a gamer. Then again I’m sure I’m in the minority. I have, however, heard of the Uncharted game series with its titular star – Nathan Drake. And I suppose it was only a matter of time before some more video games make the leap to the big screen. This is nothing new, of course, we’ve had several video games turned movies with varying degrees of success. However the timing on this one was about as perfect as it could be. Coming off “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” Tom Holland once again headlines this film. And hot on the heels of his MCU efforts certainly couldn’t hurt. But, this isn’t the MCU.  Can Holland work his magic as Nathan Drake or should he stick to web slinging?
Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) is a bartender in New York City. He’s also a petty thief. He gets a surprise visit from Victor Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg), a “professional” treasure hunter who claims to have known Nathan’s brother. Victor claims that the two were close to finding a stash of gold, potentially worth billions of dollars, that was lost by Magellan (yes, that one) nearly 500 years earlier. Victor wants Nathan to help him finish what they started, though doing this will require stopping Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas), a wealthy businessman looking for the same treasure. Of course, there has to be a woman in the mix and the duo meet up with Chloe Fraser (Sophia Ali), another person in search of the treasure who may or may not be trusted.

If movies like “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” ” The DaVinci Code” or “National Treasure” (a personal favorite of mine) are up your alley, then you’ll have a good time with “Uncharted.” I’ve always been curious what hidden treasures are out there just waiting for some key or other object to unlock the goods of the past. And this is where the film excels. If you can put aside most of the logic and have a good time with it, you will. But consider that this is based on a video game and you’ll have to get past the fact that neither Tom Holland nor Mark Wahlberg look a damn thing like their 64 bit counterparts. The only person who really seems to relish his role is Banderas and he doesn’t get enough screen time to make it worthwhile. You’ll know what you’re in for very quickly, so either go with it and have a good time or get ready to check your watch for the next 116 minutes. 


As anyone would expect, “Uncharted” certainly sparkles when it comes to how it’s presented on screen. The 2.39:1 AVC HD encode checks all the boxes with amazing contrast, sharp as a tack detail and a wonderful, yet earthy-toned, color palette. The 4K version, no doubt, looks a bit better with a wider color spectrum and the like. Still, it’s hard to fault the way this Blu-ray looks. I found really no evidence of anything I’d consider a flaw. And why should we? Sony consistently puts out some of the best-looking titles I’ve seen. (“Ghostbusters Afterlife” is another example) This is no exception.


It’s a bit of a shame when you have to pony up for the 4K disc to get a Dolby Atmos soundtrack. Well, you do. But that’s not to say that the included DTS HD Master Audio mix found on this Blu-ray is by any means bad. It’s not. In fact, I was pretty impressed. Given the genre of the film we can expect an active mix with surrounds adding a warm layer of ambiance through most of the scenes. Some scenes (the airplane one in particular) do engage all of your speakers resulting in a very aggressive and dynamic aural experience. Vocals, of course, are top notch.


Technically there’s nothing “wrong” with “Uncharted. ”  It delivers some moderately-entertaining action sequences and for those that like the globe-hopping type of adventure, we’ve got plenty of that. It just seems like so many other films that the video game aspect of it gets lost. Truthfully, it’s probably more fun to simply play the game than watch the film. That said, Sony’s disc looks and sounds good and we’ve got a modest sampling of supplements. So if this is your thing, you could do a lot worse.