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Currently showing posts tagged Jason Blum

  • The Purge: Election Year (2016) Blu-ray Review

    The Purge: Election Year (2016)

    Director: James DeMonaco

    Starring: Frank Grillo, Elizabeth Mitchell, Mykelti Williamson, Joseph Julian Soria & Betty Gabriel

    Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    At the height of a heated political season, The Purge: Election Year centers on survivor turned security chief Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo, Captain America: The Winter Soldier) whose duty to protect presidential nominee Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell, Lost) is compromised.  As her controversial policies to end the savage Purge are despised by the corrupt, navigating dangerous streets and trusting strangers desperate for change may be the only chance to survive the lawless evening.  Mykelti Williamson (Forrest Gump), Joseph Julian Soria (Max) and Betty Gabriel (Good Girls Revolt) costar.

    In a society overrun by one’s anxious desire to brutally slay for one evening, The Purge: Election Year pits the sadistic holiday against a force for change.  Following the murder of her own family during the first annual Purge, Senator Charlie Roan seeks to abolish the barbaric event and expose higher society’s gains from it with her determined presidential run.  Igniting a movement throughout the country and threatening the stability of the corrupt NFFA, Senator Roan, protected by her head of security Leo Barnes and his team, make the necessary preparations ahead of the new year’s Purge where, for the first time in its history, targeting governmental figures is fair game.  Betrayed and forced to evacuate their shelter, Leo and Charlie trek the anarchic streets of Washington D.C. where alliances with working class citizens and anti-Purge rebels is essential to their survival and the Senator’s destiny to alter the course of the country.  Even more fast-paced and action-packed than its predecessor, The Purge: Election Year polishes its simplistic formula with a marketing campaign and over the top violence that cheekily comments on the slogan of one presidential nominee’s to “make America great again”.  Host to choice soundtrack cuts from T. Rex and a cover of Miley Cyrus’ “Party In The U.S.A.”, Producer Jason Blum’s (Insidious, Sinister) third installment welcomes Uncle Sam costumed killers, candy bar craving looters and white supremacist soldiers stacking the odds against our heroes while, a bloody gun battle in a church paints the walls red and waves a not-so subtle finger at the seething corruption found within political figures and religious organizations.  Financially soaring past its previous entries, The Purge: Election Year arrives with even more refined energy and violent aggression making it the best of the bunch thus far.

    Universal Studios Home Entertainment presents The Purge: Election Year with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Although not boasting a broad color scheme, skin tones are nicely detailed and true to appearance while, the film’s level of bloodshed and neon-lit masks of various assailants make for the most eye-popping of visuals.  Furthermore, cast under the shadows of night and taking place in dimly lit bunkers and storefronts, black levels are generally pleasing with only occasional hints of digital noise and murkiness in facial closeups.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that handles dialogue with ease and authority, gunfire blasts, explosions and eerie street ambiance dominate the track for a mostly strong presentation.  Special features include, Deleted Scenes (8:05), Inside The Purge (5:31) where returning Director James DeMonaco and his cast reflect on the political themes and increased violence in the film plus, Character Spotlight: Leo (3:34) allows Star Frank Grillo to briefly touch upon his character’s development.  Lastly, a DVD edition of the release and a Digital HD Code conclude the supplemental package.

    Darkly fun and serving as good escape from the overwhelming presidential race, The Purge: Election Year paints the screen blood red, white and blue with higher stakes than ever before.  Returning anti-hero Frank Grillo leads a small yet effective ensemble cast to survival as masked Abe Lincoln’s and Lady Liberty’s practice their right to purge in our nation’s capital.  Earning its vote for the franchises most violently entertaining entry to date, Universal Studios Home Entertainment supports the onscreen anarchy with above average technical grades but, lacks more substantial bonus content.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, The Purge: Election Year can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Ouija (2014) Blu-ray Review

    Ouija (2014)

    Director: Stiles White

    Starring: Olivia Cooke, Douglas Smith, Bianca A. Santos & Daren Kagasoff

    Released by: Universal Studios

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Following the tragic death of her best friend (Shelley Hennig, Teen Wolf), Ouija centers on Laine (Olivia Cooke, Bate Motel) as she attempts to contact her using an antiquated Ouija board.  After tinkering with the superstitious relic, Laine, along with her friends, awaken a resident spirit leading to a series of horrifying events.  Douglas Smith (Big Love), Bianca A. Santos (Happyland), Ana Coto (DisCONNECTED), Daren Kagasoff (The Secret Life of the American Teenager), Robin Lively (Teen Witch) and Lin Shaye (Insidious) co-star.

    In the tradition of board game adaptations such as Clue and Battleship, Platinum Dunes and Blumhouse Productions, in association with Hasbro Studios, unveil their long in-development take on Ouija.  Previously intended as a big-budget spectacle with several directors including McG (Terminator Salvation) and Breck Eisner (The Crazies) attached, Ouija would ultimately settle on a tighter $5 million budget with first time director Stiles White at the helm.  With the game soaked in supernatural intrigue for generations, its modern day cinematic treatment is anything but memorable.  After Debbie (Hennig) unexpectedly commits suicide, Laine (Cooke), with the assistance of her friends, try to summon her through the means of a Ouija board.  After several contacts prove they are not communicating with their dearly departed friend, an evil spirit has instead been summoned, vowing to extract terror upon the teens.  Littered with painfully dull characters and cheap jump scares, Ouija, ripe with potential, fails to make a chilling impact.  As its cast slowly drops like flies, Laine investigates the history behind her deceased friend’s house where the board was found, leading her to its former inhabitant, Paulina Zander (Shaye), and her tragic history.  While, Blumhouse Productions‘ good luck charm, Shaye, delivers one of the more solid performances as a mentally disturbed woman with a questionable past, her screen time is quite limited.  In addition, talented lead actress Olivia Cooke, hot off her success on A&E’s Bates Motel, is vastly underwhelming due entirely to the film’s uneventful screenplay.  Amongst a forgettable supporting cast of newcomers, retro enthusiasts will appreciate the lovely Robyn Lively (The Karate Kid, Part III, Teen Witch) in a brief role as Debbie’s grieving mother.  

    Considered a massive financial success earning over $95 million at the box-office, Ouija is predictable as they come, lacking suspense and a worthwhile narrative with such a novel icon at its core.  As Platinum Dunes (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Friday the 13th) and Blumhouse Productions (Paranormal Activity, The Purge) add another bankable effort under their belts, Ouija is sadly one, if not their biggest, blunder to date.

    Universal Studios debuts Ouija with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Where the film miscalculates narratively, its high-definition presentation makes up for.  Sparkling with natural skin tones, deep, inky black levels and fine detail, Ouija looks hauntingly superior.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Ouija pleases with crystal clear dialogue levels and aggressive jump scares prioritized nicely in their delivery.  No distortion or any other such anomalies interfere in this otherwise tip top track.  Supplemental features include two Blu-ray exclusives, The Spirit Board: An Evolution, tracing the Ouija boards history through the years with various interview subjects including Director Stiles White and Co-Writer Juliet Snowden (4:07) plus, Icons of the Unknown takes a brief scientific look into how the game works (4:00).  In addition, Adapting the Fear interviews the cast and crew about turning the eerie board game into a feature film (3:45).  Finally, a DVD edition of the film and a Digital HD UltraViolet code round out the packages bonus content.

    With other board game adaptations including Monopoly and Candy Land in active development, Ouija most assuredly won’t be applauded for its memorability.  Uninspired and relying on shallow scares, Ouija remains a spirit not worth communicating with.  Universal Studios ushers the film onto Blu-ray with top-notch A/V standards and a small, rather uneventful spread of special features.  Worthy of a stronger narrative considering its rich, supernatural background, Ouija is as lifeless as the spirits conjured within it. 

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Available now, Ouija can be purchased through Amazon.com and other fine retailers.