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Suicide Squad (Blu-Ray) - Dec 24, 2016
Director: David Ayer

Main Stars: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis

Rating: 3 out 5

After the death of Superman, Government bureaucrat Amanda Waller (Davis) is tasked with assembling the baddest of the bad to work alongside an elite squad of soldiers and take down a supernatural entity wrecking havoc in Midway city. Only problem is this motley gang just released from prison has their own agenda and task leader Rick Flag (Kinnaman) must keep them from killing him and each other in the process. Here we are with yet another comic book film in a seemingly endless stream of comic book films. Not being a fanboy may be a good thing (I've never even heard of most of these characters) as I didn't find it to be as bad as most reviewers. The biggest problem is there's simply to many characters that they have to give some sort of back story to and not enough time to adequately do it in. Then again, if it was just Will Smith, Joel Kinnaman, and Margot Robbie it wouldn't be much of a 'squad'. But for me the biggest issue is the villain has to be the absolute worst that I've seen. So bad. Despite that it was entertaining enough and had it's moments. It looked and sounded great. Probably the first movie in awhile to really give my subwoofer a workout. I watched the Extended version which adds about 10 minutes of extra footage. But unlike with Batman vs Superman it doesn't really improve things. Of course this movie sets up several more entries to come in the franchise including a Harley Quinn spinoff. Which would be cool - because I won't lie, I could look at her all day long. Come on puddin, do it!

Sausage Party (VOD) - Nov 29, 2016
Director: Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon

Main Stars: Seth Rogan, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Salma Hayek

Rating: 2.5 out 5

At the local supermarket, unknown to the shoppers within, the products in the store are very much alive. They wait for the magical day when they are chosen and destined for a better life in the great beyond. One fateful day everyone's belief system comes crashing down as a brave wiener named Frank learns the horrible truth. Ok, kudos for someone finally coming along and making a no apologies, no holds barred, animated feature marketed directly at adults. If I see one more cutesy Disney movie advertised on TV I'll literally vomit. That said, despite some potential, I ultimately was left feeling let down and frankly somewhat annoyed. Some very breezy observations on the meaning of life and the middle east conflict aside, this isn't exactly thought provoking fare. The protagonist is a wiener who wants to get inside his girlfriend who is a hot dog bun. Penis in Vagina. Get it? Again, not exactly intellectually challenging. The voices are done by a veritable who's who of the comic world, plus Salma Hayek for some odd reason. And the animation is surprisingly well done and visually pleasing. Some people might be offended by all the racial stereotypes, but the writers took a page from Lenny Bruce where if you're going to do racial comedy then at least offend all races equally. But honestly what I found offensive was all the F-bombs. I'm far from a prude, but seemingly every single word from the bad guy - a douche, both literally and figuratively - was fuck this, fuck that, fuck, fuck, fuckety, fuck fuck fuck. It got pretty old pretty fast. If I wanted to listen to two hours of that I'd go back to working in a warehouse. A flick with promise that ultimately gets dragged down by writer Seth Rogan's need to wallow in juvenile humor. That said, the last few minutes are equally gut bustingly funny and shockingly offensive. Save yourself the 90 minute runtime and just find the clip on YouTube instead.

Dolls (Blu-Ray) - Nov 12, 2016
Director: Stuart Gordon

Main Stars: Ian Patrick Williams, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Carrie Lorraine

Rating: 3 out 5

As part of my annual October binge on horror movies, I spun this one up never having seen it before. I had ordered it months ago from Shout Factory, a studio revered for almost single handedly bringing these 80's low budget horror gems to Blu-ray. I didn't know much about it other than it was directed by Stuart Gordon who brought us such classics as Re-Animator and From Beyond. I also liked the subject material as let's face it, next to clowns, dolls are probably the most creepy things there are. In this one we have a father and daughter along with his rich girlfriend on a car trip when they get stuck and are forced to seek shelter in a creepy old house along the side of the road. They are soon joined by a couple of hitchhikers and a good Samaritan who also were forced to escape from the brutal storm overhead. The house is owned by an elderly married couple who while nice seem rather odd. The old man's hobby is making hand made dolls and the old woman seems to know more than what she's letting on. All hell breaks lose once the guests turn in for the night. This movie sucked me in from the very beginning when during a dream sequence a gigantic teddy bear turns into a monster out of hell and proceeds to rip apart the little young girl's dad and girlfriend in front of her. Afterwards she exclaims 'Oh Teddy!' to which the bear turns to her and simply shrugs it's shoulders. One of the funniest bits I've seen in awhile. Still, this is a cheesy 80's horror flick very much a product of it's time. The two hitchhiker girls looking like clones of Madonna from her Like A Virgin phase for example. But it's also quite charming. Especially the interplay between the little girl and the good Samaritan. And there's a nice mix of genuinely creepy moments with humorous gore and violence along with some stop motion effects which I'm always a sucker for. Although Chucky is the better known killer doll movie (they both came out around the same time) this one more than holds it's own against it, and in some ways is even superior.

The Lobster (VOD) - Sep 4, 2016
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

Main Stars: Colin Farrell, Jessica Barden, Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly

Rating: 1.5 out 5

In the near future you are either coupled with someone or you are a loner. Loners are an anathema to society and live in the woods where they are hunted. Those who suddenly find themselves single are sent to a resort where they have 45 days to find a compatible mate. Those that fail in that task are then given a second chance at life after having been transformed into an animal of their choice. Wow, where to begin? I really, truly tried to give this movie a chance but just couldn't do it. While I'm no stranger to heady art house flicks, this was just abysmal. It was nice seeing Farrell playing an atypical role for him. So many actors get pigeonholed into a role type and then just keep banging out the same character film after film. So it's appreciated when someone branches out and tries something different. And the cinematography is top notch - if nothing else The Lobster is beautifully filmed. But the story is just absurd in the extreme. I get the general themes it was exploring - the family unit is nothing but fodder for mass consumerism, unless you fit into one of society's compartmentalized categories you are a failure and shunned etc. - but everyone's dead panned monotone delivery quickly becomes tedious. I almost felt as if the director was simply playing a cruel joke on the audience. As a sanity check I checked out several other reviews and I'm not alone in thinking this could possibly be the worst movie ever made. But for every post like that there are those who claim this is a masterpiece. Rest assured it is not.

Amelie (Blu-Ray) - Aug 3, 2016
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Main Stars: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Dominique Pinon

Rating: 5 out 5

Amelie is the byproduct of two dysfunctional parents. As such she is isolated and socially awkward, her only contact fleeting exchanges with her apartment neighbors and the customers at the Parisian bistro she works at. One day she discovers a tin box containing childhood treasures from a former tenant and decides to track down the owner and reunite them. Upon seeing their joyous reaction she determines to spend her time helping those around her. Soon she spies an odd man scraping together torn up photos from a metro photo booth and determines that she also needs to help herself and find true love in the arms of someone equally unique. A joyous delight comes to mind when thinking about this film. I remember the good buzz when it came out oh so long ago but only got around to watching it now. Helmed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet who did the equally excellent if bizarre flick Delicatessen, the movie is in French with English subtitles. Sadly I know several people who as soon as they hear the word 'subtitles' tune out - which is a shame as such foreign films are a needed respite from the seemingly endless dreck Hollywood regurgitates. This is simply a perfect movie and I went through all the emotions while watching. In the end I was left feeling completely uplifted without feeling artificially manipulated. As an added bonus the visuals are striking with bold colours that change depending upon the mood of the characters. Paris has never looked so vibrant. Hugely recommended.

Anomalisa (Blu-Ray) - Jun 24, 2016
Director: Duke Johnson, Charlie Kaufman

Main Stars: David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Noonan (voices)

Rating: 3 out 5

Michael Stone is in Cincinnati doing a speech on customer service to his many admiring fans. But he is not a happy man. To him, he is adrift in life and everyone looks and sounds exactly the same. The night before his speech he hears a beautiful voice in the hallway outside his hotel room, and upon opening the door is stunned to gaze upon someone who stands out from everyone else. Two things appealed to me when I saw this advertised. First off was that it starred Jennifer Jason Leigh (JJL) who is easily my favourite actress. Second was the in your face visual look. Filmed with puppets using stop motion, it creates an overall surreal watching experience. Kaufman has penned two brilliant films that are up there with some of my favorites - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich - so I had high hopes for this one. To get a sense of how things unfold, the first 10 or so minutes of the film happens in real time as the main character rides in a taxi to the hotel and checks into his room. Anyone whose travelled much can relate to the societal norm of small talk which while completely pointless you find yourself automatically doing anyways. That sets up the larger story of loneliness and monotony. JJL's appearance is a breath of fresh air both literally and allegorically. As an aside, I found it interesting that one of the most 'honest' depictions of sex with a stranger occurs via the use of puppets. But in keeping with the theme of the story, the ending leaves one unsatisfied. Kaufman's latest is a homage to the soul crushing banality of everyday life. And while it's well done and definitely 'different', it doesn't make for an overly enjoyable experience, yet it's still a good film.

Deadpool (VOD) - Jun 2, 2016
Director: Tim Miller

Main Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Ed Skrein, Morena Baccarin, Gina Carano

Rating: 4 out 5

Anyone who knows me knows that I generally detest comic book movies. I consider them formulaic garbage catering to the lowest common denominator which fan boyz continue to eat up and which lazy studios continue to churn out as a result. So normally this wouldn't be my first choice to watch on any given night. But I kept hearing good buzz about it and I liked the fact that for once (ok, ya Watchmen was as well way back when) we had a comic movie that was Rated R. So one night the wife and I pulled it up on iTunes and rented it. Surprisingly, I found myself fairly entertained by it. Reynolds plays Deadpool, a mutant resisting efforts to become part of the X-Men who instead spends all his time trying to find the person responsible for his mutation and kill him for his efforts. Of course along comes the love interest and of course she ends up in danger and he has to rescue her from the bad guys. Formulaic crap right? Yes, but the movie is in on the joke and delights in poking fun at itself and at the genre. From the opening credits you know this superhero flick is going to be different. Yet at times it's also quite serious and manages to find a nice balance between the two conflicting directions. The R rating comes not so much from the violence but from the vulgarity and general naughtiness (masturbating with a stuffed unicorn anyone?) although there is plenty of gore and blood splattering to be had. Best line of the movie "Regina! Rhymes with fun!". A refreshing change from the never ending stream of super serious, mega ensemble cast, sequel after sequel comic crapfests.

Kansas City (Laserdisc) - May 8, 2016
Director: Robert Altman

Main Stars: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Miranda Richardson, Harry Belafonte, Dermot Mulroney

Rating: 3.5 out 5

In 1930's Kansas City a petty thief (Mulroney) makes a big mistake when he crosses a gangster (Belafonte) who runs the local jazz club and is held captive while his fate is decided. Failing to gain his release, his wife (Leigh) kidnaps a local politician's wife (Richardson) and threatens to kill her unless he is able to free her husband. Famed director Altman followed up his masterpiece Short Cuts with this effort which unfortunately didn't receive the same level of accolades. Not on Blu-ray and hard to find on DVD, I managed to grab the Japanese release on Laserdisc. As I'm a huge fan of JJL and have enjoyed Altman's prior films it was an easy decision to obtain it. While jazz music isn't the focus and is instead the backdrop, it alone is worth watching (listening). Employing some of the best contemporary musicians to capture that bygone era it was a treat to listen to. As for the performances I was very impressed with Belafonte whom I hadn't seen in anything before. He was very convincing as the gangster, smooth in outward appearance, but seething on the inside. Richardson is also excellent as the politicians wife addicted to opiates who despite her addled demeanor seems to be more aware of things than she lets on. A very nuanced role. Probably the biggest challenge was JJL whose performance is very divisive. You'll either love it or hate it, but like everything she does, she gives it her all. A decent flick that deserves much more than the obscurity that has sadly befallen it.

Steve Jobs (VOD) - Apr 2, 2016
Director: Danny Boyle

Main Stars: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg

Rating: 4.5 out 5

I still remember where I was when I found out Steve Jobs had died. I was in an airplane on my way to Vegas flipping through channels on the small TV on the headrest in front of me when I came across a news channel discussing the breaking news. It was a struggle for me to keep my composure. Most kids grow up idolizing a sports player or a rock musician, me I idolized someone who simply wanted to affect change and improve peoples lives through computers. With that in mind it would be easy to say that was the reason I rated it so highly. But it would also be incorrect. When I heard they were making this I was actually annoyed thinking that it was simply an attempt to cash in on his death. When I read about the revolving door of directors and stars attached to the project it didn't inspire much confidence. But when I heard that the script consisted of nothing more than detailing three product launches (the original Macintosh, the NeXT cube, and the iMac) I thought they were crazy. How could they make a movie out of that? Well they pulled it off. Consisting of nothing more than dialog it managed to keep me glued to the screen for it's two hour runtime. Focusing on the launches also made sense as each captured a pivotal moment in his life. In reality though what is presented are the moments leading up to the actual launch. However the computers aren't the focus, they are simply the backdrop to capturing the person that was Steve Jobs (Fassbender). Interspersed is the narrative focusing on his estranged relationship with his daughter and his relationships with executive Joanna Hoffman (Winslet), Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak (Rogen), and Apple CEO John Sculley (Daniels).  The actor's performances make or break such dialog heavy films and both Fassbender and Winslet are excellent. Their Oscar nominations were well deserved. Yes, some liberties were taken with actual events but they make sense in terms of the story. For a more accurate accounting of his life I'd recommend reading Walter Isaacson's biography on Jobs. But for pure entertainment this is worth a look if only to observe a creative genius who was as despised as much as he was loved.

Inside Llewyn Davis (Blu-Ray) - Mar 20, 2016
Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Main Stars: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Ethan Phillips, Adam Driver

Rating: 2.5 out 5

Llewyn (Isaac) is a struggling folk singer in New York City in the early 60's. His is a daily struggle performing in the sad shadow of what once was a successful duo act that all came crashing down when his musical partner committed suicide. So he spends his days in between gigs bitter and trying to find a place to crash from a diminishing circle of friends and family he hasn't managed to piss off to spend the cold winter nights. He's not happy, he's not successful, but he can't bring himself to quit and go back to his former life working on merchant ships. Finally he decides one day to go for broke and hitchhike to Chicago and present himself to the reigning big wig music agent in hopes of becoming somebody once again. I like the Coen brothers, having enjoyed their previous work immensely - films like Fargo and The Big Lebowski - however I don't put them on a pedestal like some people do. I didn't know anything about this one other than what I saw from the trailer which made it seem like a quirky film where a cat was the main character. And while the cat plays an important role it's not the focus of the film. To be fair, I'm not sure how a studio would market this movie. For me my biggest issue was I was quite enjoying it up until the end. I found Oscar Isaac to be enjoyable enough to watch even if his character was hard to have much sympathy for. The music was great, the time setting, visuals, and so on were fine. But then the end came and it was like 'wait, what????'. Suddenly I thought I was watching a David Lynch film. Then I took to Google to look up the supposed meaning of everything and some of the stuff people were saying it was again like 'wait, what???'. I mean I got the gist of what the story was trying to say, or at least I thought I had, but then reading some of the other interpretations I found myself questioning my intelligence and wondering what film it was that I had just finished watching. Many critics offer it up as the Coen brothers greatest effort. Me, not so much. Your mileage may vary.

Crimson Peak (Blu-Ray) - Feb 26, 2016
Director: Guillermo del Toro

Main Stars: Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam, Jim Beaver

Rating: 4 out 5

When Edith (Wasikowska) was a young child on the night of her mother's death she was visited by her ghost who warned her to 'beware Crimson Peak'. Now an adult, Edith finds herself falling for a captivating Englishman (Hiddleston) who's come to America to try and convince her father to fund his life's work, a bizarre mechanical contraption designed to dig clay out of the earth. Her father doesn't like him, but he can't quite figure out why. When her father is found dead from an apparent accident she turns to the English baronet for comfort and leaves all behind to go live with him and his sister (Chastain) in his family's decrepit but strangely beautiful manor. Once there however it becomes apparent that all is not what it seems. I've always been a fan of director del Toro, from the creepy and heart wrenching Pans Labyrinth to even his big budget blockbuster of a film Pacific Rim. His movies are always a visual feast and this one is no exception. Simply beautiful and haunting. Sadly the studio had no idea how to market what is in reality a Gothic Horror and advertised it as yet another typical horror flick. As Edith says in the movie while referencing the novel she was writing 'it's not a ghost story, it's a story with ghosts in it - the ghosts are a metaphor'. So those expecting another Insidious will be disappointed. Those who truly appreciate Gothic Horror however will love it. About my only criticism is that I thought the unveiling of the terrible secret could have been drawn out a bit more. Once at the manor the story seems to fly along to the conclusion and I feel a few more expository scenes could have been added. Still, a stunning modern homage to the horror films of old.

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (Theatre) - Feb 9, 2016
Director: J.J. Abrams

Main Stars: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver

Rating: 3.5 out 5

For my generation, the original three Star Wars movies will always hold a special place in our hearts. Kids today simply can't grasp what a mind blowingly awesome spectacle they were for us. With that in mind, and considering the almost universal disdain of the three prequels, director Abrams had a huge task ahead of him to not piss off us old geezers while at the same time capturing that same magic for a new generation accustomed to sensory overload. So did he succeed? Mostly. I won't detail the story as it's hard to do so without potentially ruining it - there's been so many things shrouded in mystery and controversy prior to the release - from who's missing on the poster to how can there be a Black Stormtrooper. And yes there's one major spoiler which thankfully I didn't find out before seeing it. The primary thing that annoyed me is the entire film felt like just an excuse to get to the second film which is where the story really starts. Also, for such a vast universe people sure seemed to keep running into each other with startling frequency. Oh hey, there's a famous ship, let's take it. Oh hey, look who we ran into just 5 minutes later. Oh hey, I'm on this planet, but conveniently managed to land right where the guy I'm looking for is etc. etc. etc. Plus the story is essentially a rehash of the original Star Wars. Desert planet check. Snowy planet check. Death star Bigger Death Star check. I'm your father! No, I'm your father! etc. As for the original cast, with one exception they mostly have minor roles - in the case of Carrie Fisher I thought that was a good thing as, well, I found her scenes sorta cringe worthy. Let's face it, she can barely string a sentence together these days. As for the new cast, Boyega was fun to watch but Daisy Ridley was a delight and looks to have a bright future. And despite some initial misgivings I found the droid BB-8 to be adorable! So why rate it as I did? Because despite all the reasons for it to suck, it still appealed to the kid in me. That shiver of excitement from the 20th Century Fox intro, to the opening word scrawl, to the sound of the laser blasts and ominous rumble of Star Destroyers. And the fight scenes were stellar. Thankfully Abrams employed mostly practical effects and didn't turn it into the CGI crap fest that the prequels were. He even went so far as to use compressed gas canisters in the prop rifles so they actually recoiled when fired to give them a sense of realism. And as the credits rolled I found myself annoyed - not by the movie I just watched, but by the fact that it was sadly over.

Mad Max: Fury Road (Blu-Ray) - Jan 17, 2016
Director: George Miller

Main Stars: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Zoe Kravitz

Rating: 4 out 5

In a post-apocalyptic world, having lost his family, Max (Hardy) must struggle to survive against both the elements and the crazies. One day he crosses paths with a renegade (Theron) fleeing the local warlord with a cargo full of his breeding stock and decides against his better judgment to help her. Here we go with yet another sequel. To be fair, it's been 30 years since the last one graced the movie screen. And my interest was piqued upon finding out the same director who helmed the previous films would be doing this one as well. Story-wise, well, the story is pretty lame. Unlike the first and third films, this one is more like Road Warrior nothing but balls to the wall action. And it delivers in that respect. The first half of the movie is a non-stop thrill ride that pummels you with its visual and aural assault. From there though the lack of a decent storyline starts to diminish its impact. I also found Charlize who while lovely to look at, to be woefully miscast. They needed someone less pretty and with more grit and emotion. Especially when her character was the focus and Max's character was secondary. Hardy does a decent Gibson impression but let's be honest, there's simply no replacing Mel in that role. As an added bonus (a friend pointed it out to me as I completely missed it) look for the actor who played the villain in the original Mad Max make more than a cameo in this one. An entertaining thrill ride, but check your brain at the door.