Digital Review “You Should Have Left”

“You Should Have Left” had the chance to be epic. Kevin Bacon was reuniting with the writer/director David Koepp, they last teamed up on 1999’s “Stir of Echoes”. Throw in one of my Hollywood crushes, Amanda Seyfried (“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again“, “Les Misérables”), and you have a winner…right?! Sorry, this slow burn thriller-at best (not horror) doesn’t pay off in the end. Performances from Bacon and Seyfried were OK, no issues there. Well, maybe all except for Seyfried’s over-the-top orgasm (during an off-camera sex scene). The house in the film definitely interested me more than the movie itself.
 
Official Premise: In this psychological thriller from Blumhouse Productions and legendary screenwriter Koepp, Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried star as a couple seeking a restful vacation in a remote home in the Welsh countryside. What at first seems like a perfect retreat distorts into a terrifying nightmare when reality begins to unravel, dark episodes from the past resurface, and a sinister force in the house refuses to let them leave.

I give them credit for attempting to get to where they were trying to get to, since they never quite make it fully. The idea of the haunted house was kinda neat but I would have loved to seen it fleshed more. A little less mystery. Honestly, though if that house is on AirBNB someone tell me because its gorgeous! There are no extra content included with the digital code.

Blu-ray Review “The Outsider: The Complete First Season”

Season: 4 out of stars
Blu-ray: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2 out of 5 stars

After the success of “IT”, there has been a full flow of Stephen King’s novels being adapted into film or TV being kicked into production. “The Outsider” is based off of King’s 2018 book. The show is backed with a great cast packed with great twists and turns that will keep you gripped to the TV until the climax. Ben Mendelsohn has made his name playing lead baddies in “Rogue One” and “Ready Player One” recently. It is nice seeing the other side of him in this series. Jason Bateman nails the dramatic angle again for sure after “Ozark”. This show was a big hit for HBO’s being labeled as its most watched new series in the last three years. So expect a second season in the works very soon!

Official Premise: Based on Stephen King’s bestselling novel of the same name, The Outsider is a new drama series that follows a seemingly straightforward investigation into the gruesome murder of a local boy. When 11-year-old Frankie Peterson’s body is found mutilated in the Georgia woods, police detective Ralph Anderson (Ben Mendelsohn) sets out to investigate – with eyewitnesses and physical evidence pointing to Terry Maitland (Jason Bateman), a popular high school teacher, Little League coach, doting husband and father. While the case appears ironclad, Ralph is baffled by the emergence of contradictory evidence that places his suspect in a neighboring city at the time of the murder. The mysterious set of circumstances surrounding this horrifying crime leads Ralph, a seasoned cop still grieving the recent death of his own son, to bring in unorthodox private investigator Holly Gibney (Cynthia Erivo), whose uncanny abilities he hopes will help explain the unexplainable.

The incredible cast of The Outsider includes Emmy®- and Golden Globe nominee Ben Mendelsohn (“Bloodline,” “Ready Player One”), Tony Award winner and Oscar® and Golden Globe nominee Cynthia Erivo (“The Color Purple,” “Harriet”), Bill Camp (Emmy®-nominee for “The Night Of”), Mare Winningham (Oscar® nominee for “Georgia”), Paddy Considine (HBO’s upcoming “The Third Day”), Julianne Nicholson (HBO’s upcoming “Mare of Easttown”), Yul Vázquez (“Divorce”), Jeremy Bobb (CINEMAX’s “The Knick”) and Marc Menchaca (“The Sinner”), with Emmy® and Golden Globe winner Jason Bateman (“Ozark,” “Arrested Development”) as Terry Maitland.

The 1080p transfer of the episodes are sharp, like “Castle Rock”, this show does not have an 4K Ultra HD release. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 tracks work perfectly with the score leading these episodes with great suspense. In addition to all 10 exhilarating episodes from season one, The Outsider: The Complete First Season the Blu-ray features over 40 minutes of behind-the-scenes bonus content including the all-new featurette “EL CUCO. THE BABA YAGA. THE OUTSIDER.” In this never-before-seen featurette you dive deeper into the real-world origins and supernatural abilities of the being at the center of The Outsider with interview from the creators and cast. The rest of the featurettes are worth taking a look at but nothing too stunning to jump out at you. “Invitation to Set” takes you through a tour of the show’s shooting locations. We have brief interviews with Stephen King and Jason Bateman. Lastly, “Adapting The Outsider” talks about bringing the story to life from the book to small screen.

BONUS FEATURES

  • EL CUCO. THE BABA YAGA. THE OUTSIDER – All New Featurette
  • Invitation to Set
  • Stephen King and The Outsider
  • Jason Bateman and The Outsider
  • Adapting The Outsider

10 ONE-HOUR EPISODES

  1. Fish in a Barrel
  2. Roanoke
  3. Dark Uncle
  4. Que Viene el Coco
  5. Tear-Drinker
  6. The One About The Yiddish Vampire
  7. In the Pines, In the Pines
  8. Foxhead
  9. Tigers and Bears
  10.  Must/Can’t

Blu-ray Review: Castle Rock: The Complete Second Season

Season: 4 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 1 out of 5 stars

Right off the bat let me start with the fact that “Castle Rock” fans are going to be pretty disappointed with this release. First of all the first season of “Castle Rock” was released in 4K UHD, so where is the 4K release for season two? I guess we know sales weren’t as expected, I assume. Either way season two is a far superior than than the first. Let’s just say that Lizzie Caplan knocks it outta the park with her performance. So, great season but I am sure fans like myself were hoping for that 4K release as well.

Studio description: Stephen King’s multiverse, Castle Rock, is a place which combines the mythological scale and intimate character storytelling of the best-selling author’s best-loved works. In season two, a feud between warring clans comes to a boil when budding psychopath Annie Wilkes (Lizzie Caplan, Masters of Sex), Stephen King’s nurse from hell, gets waylaid in the small town of Castle Rock. Local businessman Reginald “Pop” Merrill (played by Academy® Award-winning actor Tim Robbins – Mystic River) is dragged into the fight, when Pop’s nephew, legendary bully John “Ace” Merrill (Paul Sparks, House of Cards), stirs up trouble. It’s another eerily unforgettable season of Castle Rock, as the mysterious town’s ongoing epic saga continues to unfold.

Season two of Castle Rock also stars Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips) as Abdi Howlwadaag, Yusra Warsama as Dr. Nadia Howlwadaag, Elsie Fisher (Eighth Grade) as Joy and Matthew Alan as Chris Merrill (Snowfall, 13 Reasons Why).

Along with the ten one-hour episodes, the special features on the release are really sad. There is no commentary tracks included, which I am sure fans would have dug. All we get is new featurette called “ANNIE WILKES: Mother of Sorrow”, which runs about ten minutes. The Blu-ray itself still looks good even though its not 4K. The 1080p transfer is solid and sharp, works well with dark scenes. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 tracks also carry the seasons mystery and suspense well.

10 One-Hour Episodes:

  1. Let the River Run
  2. New Jerusalem
  3. Ties that Bind
  4. Restore Hope
  5. The Laughing Place
  6. The Mother
  7. The Word
  8. Dirty
  9. Caveat Emptor
  10. Clean

Blu-ray Review: “The Invisible Man” (2020)

DIrected by: Leigh Whannell
Starring:  Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen
Distributed by: Universal Home Video
Running time: 124 minutes

  • Film: 4 out of 5 stars
  • A/V: 5 out of 5 stars
  • Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

There’s a great joke I first heard in the eighth grade that deals with a mishap involving Superman, Wonder Woman and the Invisible Man.  I can’t relate it hear but believe me, the punchline is killer.  So is the latest incarnation of the Invisible Man.

We open on a couple in bed.  As Adrian (Jackson-Cohen) sleeps, Cecilia (Moss) gets up, gathers some things and makes her way quietly out of the state of the art house.  Doing her best to avoid cameras and not set off alarms, she makes her way to the road, where a ride is waiting.  But she will soon find out that you can’t run away from some things, no matter how hard you try.

Genuinely terrifying, with a tour-de-force performance by Ms. Moss, “The Invisible Man” starts off slowly and clumsy.  20-minutes in I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to see a rehash of “Sleeping with the Enemy,” only with a Patrick Bergin that I couldn’t see.  But just as that thought came into my head, writer/director Whannell flipped the switch, taking the film into directions I never would have imagined.

There have been many attempts at filming H.G. Wells’ story of a man with the power of invisibility, from the 1933 Universal Horror Classic “The Invisible Man” starring Claude Rains to the 2000 Kevin Bacon-starrer “Hollow Man.”  Heck, even Kurt Russell and Chevy Chase have taken comedic shots at the story.  But here, the main theme is terror, especially to an audience who is on the edge of their seats, intently staring at the screen and looking for the slightest hint the bad guy is there.

Moss is a revelation here.  Best known for her television and streaming work (“Mad Men,” “The Handmaids Tale”) and a strong supporting turn in last year’s Jordan Peele horror masterpiece, “Us,” she has the unenviable job of basically interacting with a character that the audience never sees.  Whether arguing, pleading or physically fighting with our villain, it’s just her on the screen, yet you feel her terror, especially when she is violently struggling with an entity that she (nor the audience) can see.  Mr. Whannell, no stranger to horror thanks to his involvement in the “Saw” and “Insidious” film series, keeps the pace moving (after the first half-hour) and uses his camera as an almost additional character.  The musical score, by Benjamin Wallfisch (“IT,” “Bladerunner: 2049), helps set the mood as well.  The result is the most terrifying film since the aforementioned “Us.”  If you’re a fan of horror, you definitely need this one in your collection.

Digital Review “Infinity Train: Book One”

“Infinity Train” is a new show created by Owen Dennis (former writer and storyboard artist from “Regular Show”) which aired on Cartoon Network. The show was split into two books, the first book will take you on a journey will all 10 episodes from the first season. Also included with Book One is an hour of epic bonus features including commentaries, documentaries, animatics, and more! I love the animation style from this show, it is simple yet extremely complex. The colors are so vibrant. I can’t wait to see what season two will bring as each episode literally draws you in deeper and deeper into the mystery of the show.

Official Premise: Join Tulip on a mind-bending journey aboard the mysterious Infinity Train, alongside her companions Atticus, the canine king of Corginia, and One-One, a robot with dueling personalities. With puzzles and perils awaiting them in every car and the relentless Steward on their trail, will Tulip ever find a way off the train and return home?

The voice cast is also very impressive Ashley Johnson aka Chrissy Seaver in “Growing Pains” and tons of other voice over projects including “Teen Titans” and the video game “The Last of Us”. Also included is Ernie Hudson aka Winston Zeddemore in the Ghostbusters film series. Reocurring characters include Kate Mulgrew aka Captain Kathryn Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager, Lena Headey aka Cersei Lannister on Game of Thrones and Dee Bradley Baker from Phineas and Ferb, SpongeBob SquarePants and 100’s of other shows.

Infinity Train: Book One is available to own on Digital. Digital purchase allows consumers to instantly stream and download all episodes to watch anywhere and anytime on their favorite devices. Digital movies and TV shows are available from various digital retailers including Amazon Video, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu and others.

SPECIAL FEATURES

  • Animatics
  • Infinity Train Gallery
  • Commentary
  • The Mix of the Final Episode
  • The Train Documentaries

10 EPISODES

  1. The Grid Car
  2. The Beach Car
  3. The Corgi Car
  4. The Crystal Car
  5. The Cat’s Car
  6. The Unfinished Car
  7. The Chrome Car
  8. The Ball Pit Car
  9. The Past Car
  10. The Engine

Blu-ray Review “Tommy Boy: 25th Anniversary Steelbook”

Celebrating it’s 25th anniversary this year, “Tommy Boy” comes home with a brand new Limited Edition Steelbook arriving 05/26/2020 exclusively at FYE. It’s crazy to think that it has been 25 years since this film has come out. I remember seeing it in the theaters and literally falling out of my seat laughing, which doesn’t happen very often. There really aren’t comedies like this these days. The combo of Chris Farley and David Space really delivered one of the best comedies ever with “Tommy Boy”.

Leave it up to FYE for delivering yet another amazing exclusive Steelbook. They have some of the best steelbook releases recently. FYE understands that collector’s love these releases and they are always on the ball of releasing some great titles with fantastic steelbook releases. The artwork for this film is great especially love the choice of the inside case photo that they chose. Fans of “Tommy Boy” should definitely pick this up at your local FYE or online at their shop.

Official Premise: The gust-busting duo of crack-up comedians Chris Farley and David Space star in one of the funniest films of the ’90s. To save the family business, two ne’er-do-well traveling salesmen hit the road with disastrously funny consequences. Tommy Boy is a larger-than-life movie, with a great supporting cast that includes Rod Lowe, Bo Derek, Dan Aykroyd and Brian Dennehy.

The Blu-ray disc included is the same as the “Holy Schnike Edition”, which was released back in 2008. Paramount presents the film in a solid 1080p, 1.78:1-framed transfer. The film shows its age a little bit but the transfer is overall very nice. There is a lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack included as well, which works fine with the dialogue and the soundtrack.

The special features are worth checking out as well. First up, we get a commentary track from director Peter Segal. You can tell that he enjoyed watching the film due to laughing at various scenes. The rest of the extras are all in 480p, so DVD quality, due to the age of the film. There are storyboard comparisons, a bunch of deleted / extended and alternate scenes as well as a photo gallery. Lastly there are four featurettes, a gag reel and some trailers included.

I can’t wait to see what FYE releases next for their exclusive steelbook releases. I am keeping my figures crossed for some of Terry Gilliam’s classics like “Brazil” or “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”. I can see FYE nailing some of his film with a solid steelbook releases.

Blu-Ray Review: “Mystify Michael Hutchence”

Directed By: Richard Lowenstein

Distributed By: Shout Factory

Runtime: 102 minutes

Film: 3 out of 5 stars

Special Features: 4 out of 5 stars

The fascinating new documentary “Mystify Michael Hutchence” comes to Blu-ray™ and DVD on March 31, 2020 via ShoutFactory.com and Amazon.com. The film takes an in-depth look into the life and tragic death of the lead singer of INXS. Written and directed by Richard Lowenstein (Dogs in Space) who was a close friend of the artist, “Mystify Michael Hutchence” is a powerfully intimate and insightful portrait of the internationally renowned INXS front man.

Right away I want to make potential viewers aware that “Mystify Michael Hutchence” is not a film specifically about the band INXS. Yes, obviously the group whose hits include “What You Need” “Never Tear Us Apart” and “New Sensation” do play a part in the story of Michael Huthence however, what “Mystify” does do is take a deeper and more personal look at the enigmatic front man. From his early years as a shy and somewhat introverted youth to, his involvement with the formation and success of INXS “Mystify” leaves no stone unturned. Though I found the did seemed t be a bit scattered and spotty at times there was still enough substance and detail to give the viewer a solid sense of what Hutchence was like throughout the various stages if is life. As the film begins to close in on the singer’s struggles and subsequent suicide you can’t help but feel some sense of internal grief and sadness.   

Over an hour of special features are included with the Blu-ray and DVD releases including extended interviews with the people closest to Michael prior to his death along with interviews of Hutchence himself discussing the formation of INXS, his growing up on film sets around Hong Kong and the use of INXS music in commercials. I found this portion of the release complimented the film nicely as each section provided even more depth to what was covered in the film.  

 “Mystify Michael Hutchence” is not just a film for INXS fans as Michaels story is a captivating one that keeps viewers attention throughout the films 102 minute run time. Despite the somewhat scattered presentation the film does give viewers plenty of footage and interviews some of which were previously unseen making for an interesting viewing experience.   

Blu-ray Review “Spies in Disguise”

Directors: Nick Bruno, Troy Quane
Starring: Tom Holland, Will Smith, Karen Gillan, Ben Mendelsohn, Rashida Jones, Masi Oka
20th Century Fox
Running Time: 101 min
Rated PG
Release Date: Mar 10, 2020

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

Talk about a hot voice cast including Tom Holland (“Spider-Man” franchise), Will Smith (“Men in Black”). I really wanted to love this film, but it didn’t really hit it home for me. There are parts I really liked but I wanted this to be so much funnier. The supporting cast also are fantastic including Karen Gillan (“Jumanji” franchise), Ben Mendelsohn (“Ready Player One”), Rashida Jones (“Parks and Recreation”). The action is hot in the film. The gadgets are fun also. I can’t see myself watching this film over and over again, but I don’t regret seeing it once. Kids will definitely dig it as my 8-year-old loved it.

Official Premise: In this high-flying animated comedy, super spy Lance Sterling (Will Smith) and scientist Walter Beckett (Tom Holland) are almost exact opposites. Lance is smooth, suave and debonair. Walter is none of the above. But this unlikely duo must team up for the ultimate mission to save the world when a “biodynamic concealment” experiment transforms Lance into a brave, fierce, majestic…pigeon!

The Blu-ray 1080p transfer is solid! The colors and the animation really pop. The film definitely has a nice style to it and the transfer works really well. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 also delivers the film’s action perfectly. There are also Spanish and French tracks included on the disc, but they are only Dolby Digital 5.1, which is quite the drop-in quality.

The Blu-ray edition of Spies In Disguise includes a “Super Secret Spy Mode,” which is an immersive, in-movie experience which delivers Easter eggs, fun facts, and behind-the-scenes insights into the making of the film. Get the thrill of the movie while enjoying it, definitely the best of both worlds. I wish that more Blu-rays came with features like this. Usually, I can’t get my daughter to sit through the special features since she they lose her attention but this one was interactive and added a lot to the film.

The rest of the special features included are “Infiltrating Blue Sky Studios”, which goes inside the studio that made the film, pretty cool stuff. There is a featurette called “The Top Secret Guide to Gadgets”. The music in this film is important there are two music videos includes as well as behind-the-scene looks into both of the songs, “Then There Were Two” and “Freak of Nature”.

Next up, there are a few featurettes on the behind-the-scenes into the production including a gallery of images as well as Color Keys and Moment Paintings, Character Designs and Props and Gadgets Concept Art. Lastly the Blu-ray combo pack includes a DVD copy of the film as well as a digital code.

Blu-ray Review: Dark Waters

Directed by: Todd Haynes
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway and Tim Robbins
Distributed by: Universal Home Video
Running time: 126

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
A/V: 3 out of 5 stars
Extras: 1 out of 5 stars

1975. A group of youngsters out on a Saturday night. They take their trucks and their beer to the local swimming hole and jump in. A pretty standard night for the teenagers in West Virginia (or anywhere else for that matter). They are surprised when they are rousted out of the water by strange men with hoses in boats.

1998. After being informed he is moving up in the law firm he works for, Attorney Rob Billot (Ruffalo) is informed that he has a visitor. The man, a farmer named Wilbur Tennant (Bill Camp) has come to ask for help regarding the horrific deaths of cows on his farm. At first Rob hesitates to speak with Wilbur but, when he learns that the man is friends with his grandmother in West Virginia, he agrees to listen. What he hears -and later witnesses – will change his life forever.

At first I thought this film would play out as a male-led version of “Erin Brockovich.” I was wrong. While I enjoyed that Julia Roberts flick, it didn’t pack the heart that “Dark Waters” does. I think a lot of this comes from the fact that Mark Ruffalo is not only a talented actor but he has been, and is, very vocal about the world’s environment. I imagine him hearing the pitch for this film and just saying “yes.” Intentional or not, Ruffalo’s personal passions inhabit his character, and you feel that passion.

Ruffalo is joined by a strong cast of supporting actors, including Hathaway, Robbins (in only his third film in five years), Victor Garber, Mare Winningham and a grizzly Bill Pullman. The script, based on a New York Times magazine article, is strong but not preachy. The direction is strong and Mr. Haynes keeps the film flowing smoothly over it’s two-plus hour length.

Oddly, this is the 2nd time Mark Ruffalo has taken on DuPont. He ended up on the wrong end of a gun in “Foxcatcher” so maybe this film was his way of getting even!

Blu-ray Review “Parasite”

Directed by: Bong Joon-ho
Starring: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam, Lee Jung-eun, Jang Hye-jin
Distributed by: CJ Entertainment
Running time: 132 minutes

Film: 5 out of 5 stars
A/V: 5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2 out of 5 stars

Director Bong Joon Ho has been on my radar since “The Host”, and “Snowpiercer”. Two amazing movies that the average viewers have never seen but hopefully that will change now. “Parasite” made history as the first Korean film to be nominated for an Oscar®. The film received six Oscar® nominations and ended up winning not only Best International Film but also Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay. This film is definitely the underdog and deserved everything it got. It is a very unique and original film and I am glad to see it get the attention it deserves.

Featuring incredible must-see performances from the entire cast including Song Kang Ho (Snowpiercer, The Host), Lee Sun Kyun (A Hard Day, Paju), Cho Yeo Jeong (The Servant, Obsessed), Choi Woo Shik (Okja, Train to Busan), Park So Dam (The Priests, The Silenced), Lee Jung Eun (Okja, The Wailing) and Chang Hyae Jin (Marine Boy, If It Snows on Christmas). Everyone in this cast does an amazing job. I am huge fan of Song Kang Ho and I am glad to see him back with director Bong Joon Ho. I would definitely call this film an ensemble cast. Literally outstanding.

Official Premise: In PARASITE, meet the Park family, the picture of aspirational wealth and the Kim family, rich in street smarts but not much else. Be it chance or fate, these two houses are brought together and the Kim’s sense a golden opportunity. Masterminded by college-aged Ki-woo, the Kim children expediently install themselves as tutor and art therapist to the Parks. Soon, a symbiotic relationship forms between the two families. The Kims provide “indispensable” luxury services while the Parks obliviously bankroll their entire household. When a parasitic interloper threatens the Kims’ newfound comfort, a savage, underhanded battle for dominance breaks out, threatening to destroy the fragile ecosystem between the Kims and the Parks.

Technically this release is amazing. The 1080p transfer is gorgeous. The colors are simply gorgeous. According to IMDB, this film was shot at a resolution of 6.5K and finished at 4K and then downscaled to 1080p. But simply, this film just looks beautiful. The Korean language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack is the only audio option on the disc. There is no dub track only English subtitles are included. This is the way to watch the film anyway. I wouldn’t want to see this dubbed. The score works well with this track also. It is just simply perfect. Overall, in terms of technical merits this release deserves a big major thumbs up!

Despite the amazing A/V on this release, personally I am a bit disappointed in the Blu-ray release for “Parasite”, I feel like it was rushed to release. It also didn’t get a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release, which is a bit sad. With the way this film was shot it would be amazing in 4K. It is though available to stream in 4K Ultra HD if that is your thing, just not on disc. Also the special features aren’t very special. There is only one extra included on this Blu-ray disc, which is a Q&A with Director Bong Joon Ho. It is worth watching if you enjoyed the film but I was really hoping for more. I don’t think anyone expected this film to do what it did. Hopefully there will be a re-release of this film in 4K Ultra HD in a nice steelbook release in the future.

Blu-ray Review: “JoJo Rabbit”

  • JOJO RABBIT
  • Starring:  Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie and Scarlett Johansson
  • Fox Searchlight
  • Running Time: 108 mins
  • Film: 5 out of 5 stars
  • Extras: 4 out of 5 stars

Nominated for six Academy Awards and much-deserved winner of the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, “JoJo Rabbit” is unlike anything you’d ever expect to see.  Unless, of course, you were looking to see a film about a young German boy during World War II whose best (and imaginary) friend is Adolf Hitler.

10-year old JoJo (Davis) lives with his mother, Rosie (Johansson) in a small town in Germany.  It is the time of the second world war and, like a good German boy, JoJo is anticipating his upcoming trip to the Kinderlandverschickung, which was a camp designed to indoctrinate young boys and girls into the ways of the Nazi party.  Think of it as the boy/girl scouts but with grenades.  JoJo can’t wait to wear the uniform and display the dagger given to all of the Hitler Youth.  However, after declaring that he is ready to kill for the Fuhrer, he is given a rabbit to kill to prove his fierceness.  Unable to do so, he attempts to set the rabbit free, earning him the mocking laughter of his fellow campers and the nickname “JoJo Rabbit.”  Despite this shame, he is encouraged to walk the Nazi Party line by his imaginary friend, Hitler himself (played by the film’s writer/director Taika Waititi),  To make matters worse, JoJo discovers that his mother is hiding a young Jewish girl (McKenzie) in their house.  Whatever is a young Nazi to do?

Brilliantly written and skillfully directed, “JoJo Rabbit” is well deserving of its Oscar nominations, among them Best Picture.  You have to walk a fine line to be able to laugh at one of the most horrible times in our world’s history and Mr. Waititi walks it like he was a member of the Wallenda family.  The film is also carried by the amazing performances delivered.  Mr. Davis, who was eleven years old when he made the film (his first professional acting gig) received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical and, if not for the strong field this year, could have quite easily been up for an Oscar as well.  Also turning in fine work are Ms. McKenzie and Ms. Johansson, who was named the year’s Best Supporting Actress by the readers of Media Mikes earlier this year for her work here.  Strong supporting work from Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, Stephen Merchant and Mr. Waititi round out a flawless cast. 

There are some great supplements included under the EXTRA tab, including three deleted scenes, Outtakes, a nice behind-the-scenes featurette and an insightful audio commentary by writer/director Taika Waititi.  Also included are the film’s teaser and theatrical trailer.

Film Review: “Feedback”

FEEDBACK
Starring: Eddie Marsan, Paul Anderson, Ivana Baquero
Directed By: Pedro C. Alonso
Not Rated
Running Time 98 min
Blue Fox Entertainment

A London radio station transforms into a pressure cooker when a late night host is held captive in his own recording studio. What starts as a not-wholly-unexpected hostage situation for the controversial host quickly reveals the thugs have more personal than political reasons for their chosen target. Director Pedro Alonso’s Feedback, which is now out on VOD and releases February 18th on DVD, is a tightly orchestrated thriller that hinges on a strong leading performance from Eddie Marsan despite a questionable point of view. 

Dolan Jarvis (Marsan) has been attacked before. Anchoring a late night radio show called “Grim Reality” where he rages on all things political (Brexit, Russian election tampering, et al), he isn’t as shaken as the average person returning to work after having been attacked by angry listeners. That said, his producer (Anthony Head) is still angling to force a co-host on him in the form of rocker Andrew Wilde (Paul Anderson, “Peaky Blinders”). As he starts his usual broadcast, a group of masked thugs trap Jarvis in his studio and threaten him to stick to their exact script when Wilde arrives. At first Jarvis balks but he gets on board when he realizes his daughter, who also happens to be in the radio offices that night, as well as his young studio technicians are threatened as well.

What should be a limiting contrivance–holding all action captive in a recording space–is actually one of the film’s strengths. Alonso goes a long way to making sure that the viewers feel Jarvis’s claustrophobia as his assailants bear down on him. The pristine studio also makes for a good visual contrast with the acts of violence. Then in the latter stages of the film, he keeps throwing Marsan further into situations where he feels more and more like a rat in a maze. It’s highly stressful and highly effective.

Marsan meanwhile as the victim gains a lot of sympathy when he’s first caught that pays off in dividends for the film. Alonso pulls a bit of a switcheroo by firmly placing the audience on Jarvis’s team so to speak before the ostensible villains of the piece get him and Wilde to expose more of their past digressions on air. If it weren’t for Marsan and Anderson’s respective charisma, I think this film would have run a real risk of losing viewers completely when all is said and done. Your mileage may vary, but despite where the film takes the characters, it still delivers several gasp-inducing thrills and is worthwhile for Marsan’s performance.

Blu-ray Review “FLCL: Progressive / Alternative”

The wait is over! It has been nearly 10 years since the original anime series “FLCL” and we are given not one but two new seasons of Adult Swim’s popular anime series. “FLCL: Progressive” and “FLCL: Alternative” are both being released for the first time ever as a Blu-ray combo pack from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Based on the original anime series written by Yōji Enokido and from director Kazuya Tsurumaki, the collection propels Haruko and her yellow Vespa back into action with 12 episodes from FLCL: Progressive and FLCL: Alternative. If you are fan of the original anime series these new episodes do not disappoint.

Official Premise: The highly anticipated sequel to the 2001 original FLCL, FLCL: Progressive tells the story of 14-year-old Hidomi and her classmate, Ide, as the war between Medical Mechanica and Fraternity continues. Now in the form of their teacher, Haruko Haruhara returns alongside another otherworldly being, Jinyu, a gorgeous Chrysler Bel Aire and her yellow Vespa to unleash their hidden potential.

FLCL: Alternative, the third and final season centers on the misadventures of 17-year-old Kana and her friends, Mossan, Hijiri and Pets. Living a seemingly normal life, the group’s lives are flipped upside down when Mecha falls from the sky and arrives with the guitar-wielding Haruko Haruhara. Once again determined to take out Medical Mechanica, Haruko works to awaken Kana’s N.O. channel before the relentless iron takes over the world.

“FLCL: Progressive & Alternative” comes from the legendary anime studio Production I.G and Adult Swim. The special features include a 15-minute never-before-seen documentary that dives into the making of both seasons featuring interviews with voice talent and crew. Additional special features include a “Meet the Creators” piece focused on the new era of show creators, a segment about “The Pillows” relationship with the series, a glimpse at the English voice actors behind FLCL together, and a look into the production of FLCL: Alternative.

The special features are solid and give a solid behind-the-scenes look into this wild and crazy show. Both seasons come with English language tracks. The 1080p transfers look solid in their original aspect ratio: 1.78:1 and come uncut like the Adult Swim airings. I love the look of this show it is very unique and the colors look solid with these transfers on Blu-ray. This combo pack also comes with a digital copy of both seasons, so that is an extra bonus for fans of the series.

BLU-RAY COMBO PACK SPECIAL FEATURES

  • The Making of FLCL: Progressive & Alternative: An in depth look behind the scenes featuring interviews with the cast and crew.
  • Meet the Creators
  • The Pillows
  • English Voice Actors
  • Production: Behind-the-Scenes

FLCL: ALTERNATIVE DVD SPECIAL FEATURES

  • English Voice Actors
  • Production: Behind-the-Scenes

COMBO PACK INCLUDES ALL 12 EPISODES

  1. RE: Start
  2. Freebie Honey
  3. Stone Skipping
  4. LooPQR
  5. Fool On the Planet
  6. Our Running
  7. Flying Memory
  8. Grown-Up Wannabe
  9. Freestyle Collection
  10. Pit-a-Pat
  11. Shake it Off
  12. Full Flat

Blu-ray Review: “Harriet”

Starring: Cynthia Erivo, Joe Alwyn and Vondie Curtis-Hall
Focus Features
Running Time: 125 minutes
Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

In 1920 the United States passed the 19th Amendment, which gave the women in America the chance to vote.  Part of the celebration planned for this year was to be the issuing of new $20 bills featuring the image of Harriet Tubman, an honor long overdue.

We find ourselves in the deep-south in the early 1850s.  “Minty” Ross is a slave on the Brodess Plantation.  She recently married John Tubman, a free man, and the couple implore Mr. Brodess to allow Minty to be free as well, even going so far as to offer a letter from a lawyer.  Needless to say, Mr. B is not keen on the idea and tells them “no.”  Minty is so upset she runs off and secretly prays for death to visit Mr. Brodess sooner rather than later.  One wish granted, another denied.

Featuring a powerful (and Oscar-nominated) performance by Cynthia Erivo, “Harriet” is a well-intentioned film that unfortunately isn’t as powerful as its star.  We learn that Minty suffers from “spells,” which she considers to be visions from God.  When she is put up for sale she runs away, with the hope of a local preacher (the always impressive Vondie Curtis-Hall) and eventually finds herself in Philadelphia.  Having left her family behind, she resolves to return to free them as well.  Soon she is caught up in what is referred to as “The Underground Railroad,” and proves herself to be a great conductor.  And that is pretty much the story in a nutshell.  We don’t really learn much about Harriet (the “freed woman” name she has taken) except that she loved her family and was instrumental in helping dozens of slaves escape their bondage.  Not a lot of insight.  It is an important and inspirational story and, in my mind, there was  lot more I wanted to learn about Harriet.

On the plus side, the performances are very strong, especially Ms. Erivo, who not only earned an Academy Award nomination for her acting here but also one for the song “Stand Up,” which she co-wrote.  The direction is strong, the pace is smoothly mapped out and John Toll’s cinematography is breathtaking.   That being said, Ms. Erivo’s performance alone is reason enough to recommend this film.

Extras include deleted scenes, an all too short look at the real Harriet Tubman and a very entertaining audio commentary by director and co-writer Kasi Lemmons.

Sadly, in typical government fashion, Harriet Tubman will NOT be honored on the $20 bill this year.  Last I read that won’t happen until 2028. 

4K Ultra HD Review “Gemini Man”

Director: Ang Lee
Starring: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen
Paramount Pictures
Running Time: 117 minutes

Film: 2.5 out of 5 stars
4K UHD: 5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

“Gemini Man” isn’t a film I wanted to see at all. The trailers looks boring to me despite action sequences. After watching the movie, I was proved right in my assumptions. The movie was bland, predictable and packed a real terrible ending. Will Smith tries his best but there is just too much Will Smith here and I didn’t think that was possible. The film does have some solid visual effects though.

Despite my feelings on the film, I was mega impressed with the fact that this 4K Ultra HD release includes a first for Paramount. The 4K Ultra HD disc is encoded in 60FPS (frames-per-second) for exceptional sharpness and clarity. The standard Blu-ray release comes with the film presented in 24FPS, if you are a film buff this is a pretty cool deal. There is also an exclusive visual effects scene breakdown presented by WETA in 60FPS, Ultra HD and High Dynamic Range in the special features.

The 4K Ultra HD disc presents the film in Dolby Vision®, which brings entertainment to life through ultra-vivid picture quality with spectacular colors, highlights that are up to 40 times brighter, and blacks that are 10 times darker.  This film is the first ever Dolby Vision high frame rate disc to be released.  Also included this disc boasts a Dolby Atmos® soundtrack. The film comes including a 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital copy of the film.

Official Premise: Will Smith stars as retired hitman Henry Brogan, forced on the run by a young, highly skilled operative who will stop at nothing to eliminate his target.  Now on a race around the globe, Henry must outsmart the mysterious assassin at every step – but how far will he go once they finally come face to face?  Packed with epic fight scenes and groundbreaking visual effects,  “Gemini Man” is the future of action movies.

The bonus features include an Alternate Opening (even though this film needed an alternate ending more so), some Deleted Scenes and a few featurettes including: The Genesis of Gemini Man, Facing Your Younger Self, The Future Is Now, Setting the Action, Next Level Detail and The Vision of Ang Lee. The Visual Effects Progression presented by WETA in 60FPS is only available on the 4K UHD disc. Even though I didn’t like the film this extra was work checking out for sure.

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