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Currently showing posts tagged True Story

  • Don't Give Up the Ship (1959) Blu-ray Review

    Don’t Give Up the Ship (1959)

    Director: Norman Taurog

    Starring: Jerry Lewis, Dina Merril, Diana Spencer, Mickey Shaughnessy, Robert Middleton, Gale Gordon, Mabel Albertson & Chuck Wassil

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Unbelievably based on an actual incident, Don’t Give Up the Ship stars Jerry Lewis (The Nutty Professor) as a wet-behind-the-ears naval newlywed who is whisked away from his honeymoon by a committee investigating the disappearance of the battleship previously under his command.  Suffering a mental block, a blonde bombshell of a psychiatrist (Dina Merril, Operation Petticoat) is brought in to help rattle the officer’s memory.  

    Produced in accordance with the U.S. Navy who are praised for their cooperation and sense of humor at the film’s onset, Don’t Give Up the Ship interrupts the celebratory victory of World War II when a displeased congressman refuses to approve a $4 billion appropriation fund for the Navy due to the mysterious disappearance of destroyer vessel, the U.S.S. Kornblatt.  Tying the knot with his lovely new bride Prudence (Diana Spencer, TV’s Johnny Ringo), the dimwitted but harmless Lieutenant John Paul Steckler VIII is quickly fingered by an investigative committee and summoned to the Pentagon to explain the most unusual circumstance behind the whereabouts of the ship that was under his control.  Ordered to locate the vessel in mere days while being hilariously disrupted at every chance of intimacy with his wife, Steckler’s mental block and seemingly tall tales about the events surrounding the Kornblatt make matters laughably more difficult for the Navy veteran.  Aided by an attractive psychologist tasked with helping Steckler remember the stranger than fiction facts, comical hijinks including, sharing a train compartment with another woman much to the dismay of his wife, being captured by Japanese soldiers unaware of the war’s conclusion and a deep sea exploration finding the goofy cadet and a fellow Navy man confronted by sharks, mermaids and a massive octopus.  While the funnyman’s madcap energy and comedic timing are the heart of the film, Don’t Give Up the Ship is a fairly middle-of-the-road effort from Jerry Lewis’ career of laughs with a plot that runs its course by the time the end credits roll.  Although Steckler’s robbed opportunities at whoopee making become repetitive, Lewis’ brand of childish silliness and knee-slapping physicality still make for a fine time.

    Newly remastered in 4K, KL Studio Classics presents Don’t Give Up the Ship with a 1080p transfer, preserving its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  A gorgeous sight to behold, the monochrome photography looks stunning with excellent detail observed in skin tones, the fairly basic Navy uniforms and the film’s underwater sequence that is relayed with the utmost quality.  Boasting deeply inky black levels and hardly a scratch to be seen, it doesn’t get much better than this for a film so many decades removed.  Charmed with an equally impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that appears basic enough yet, sells dialogue exchanges, city street ambiance, and hurricane winds with top-notch care.  Although unrelated to the main feature, the disc’s sole special feature is Trailers for After the Fox (2:49), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (2:23), Haunted Honeymoon (2:19), Life Stinks (2:01), Delirious (2:22) and The Couch Trip (1:14).

    Helmed by Academy Award-winning Director Norman Taurog (Slippy, The Wizard of Oz, albeit uncredited for his contributions on the latter), Don’t Give Up the Ship succeeds in letting Lewis does what he does best while, carrying the otherwise mediocre plot on his shoulders with ease.  Unable to keep your eyes off of the animated thespian for fear of missing the slightest funny nuance, Lewis keeps the ship afloat steadily.  Meanwhile, KL Studio Classics’ exceptional 4K mastering of the feature is an absolute knockout and now the only way to view this well-received comedy.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from KL Studio Classics, Don’t Give Up the Ship can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Founder (2016) Blu-ray Review

    The Founder (2016)

    Director: John Lee Hancock

    Starring: Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Linda Cardellini, Patrick Wilson, B.J. Novak & Laura Dern

    Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the true story, The Founder charts the grassroots rise and eventual worldwide presence of the McDonald’s corporation.  Starring Michael Keaton (Spotlight) as struggling milkshake maker salesman Ray Kroc during America’s golden 50s, the discovery of a tiny yet, revolutionary fast-making burger eatery in Souther California sparks the wick of inspiration in the persistent businessman who sees nothing but endless possibilities.  Impressed by the operation and wooing its owners, Mac and Dick McDonald (Nick Offerman, Parks and Recreation and John Carroll Lynch, Channel Zero respectively), with fast talk of franchising, Kroc storms the midwest with undeniable success before desires of growing the McDonald’s brand become much more profound.  Robbed of an Academy Award nomination for his performance, Michael Keaton, although in excellent company with a stable of talent consisting of Laura Dern (Jurassic Park), Linda Cardellini (Freaks and Geeks) and Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring), singlehandedly commands the picture with restless energy and a mixture of ambition and underhanded practices that make his character bursting with depth and relatable flaws.  Looking beyond what the McDonald’s brothers envisioned while constantly being constrained by contractual terms, Kroc leverages his placement within the company by seedily taking credit for its creation before maneuvering a bonafide takeover.  A vastly intriguing character study that reveals its warts and all perhaps more so than Hancock’s charmingly saccharine Saving Mr. Banks, The Founder pulls no punches in detailing McDonald’s fascinating origin, littered with humor, mistrust and greed that could only be made and served in America.

    Anchor Bay Entertainment presents The Founder with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Digitally composed with strong detail observed in Keaton’s facial features that reveal aging lines and rosy makeup choices in its female performers, the gorgeous vistas and greenery spotted along Route 66 are also prominently relayed.  In addition, the neon signage illuminating from the film’s many McDonald’s exteriors and their spotless kitchens pop most effectively with black levels observed during nighttime sequences and blacktop lots registering deeply.  Accompanied by a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is crisply handled without a hiccup observed while, more frantic activity during kitchen sequences provide more notable atmospherics.  Special features include, a Behind the Scenes Gallery consisting of the following several featurettes, The Story Behind the Story (4:32), Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc (3:08), The McDonald’s Brothers (4:01), The Production Design (7:06) and Building McDonald’s: Time Lapse Video (1:21).  Furthermore, a Press Conference with Filmmakers and Cast (37:44) recorded in Los Angeles on January 12, 2017 closes out the on-disc extras while, a DVD edition and Digital HD Code are also provided.  An exemplary effort chronicling the advancements of one of the world’s most thriving fast food chains that deliberately challenged the values of its originators, The Founder is a sharply constructed feature with yet another fascinating performance from Keaton that unfortunately went vastly under seen.  Served with a side order of mediocre supplements, Anchor Bay Entertainment’s high-definition presentation honors the film’s period setting with picturesque quality, making this trip to the golden arches as narratively revealing as it is visually pleasing.  

    RATING: 4/5

    Available April 18th from Anchor Bay Entertainment, The Founder can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Queen of Katwe (2016) Blu-ray Review

    Queen of Katwe (2016)

    Director: Mira Nair

    Starring: Madina Nalwanga, David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o, Martin Kabanza & Taryn Kyaze

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the inspiring true story, Queen of Katwe centers on chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga in her film debut) whose gift of the game propels her from poverty to the World Chess Olympiads.  David Oyelowo (Selma) and Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) costar.

    Developed in association with ESPN Films, Queen of Katwe celebrates the tireless spirit and beauty of Uganda through the gorgeously cultivated direction of Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, The Namesake).  Residing in the slums of Kampala with her siblings and hardworking widowed mother (Nyong’o), Phiona Mutesi's encounter with local missionary Robert Katende (Oyelowo) alters her life for the better.  Teaching his newest student the art and strategies of chess, Phiona’s natural abilities to foresee movements and defeat her fellow players with ease is met with newfound confidence and encouragement to compete.  Harnessing her skills, Phiona finds herself envisioning a future where proper education is within reach and relieving her family of the poverty they’ve only ever known is now possible.  Adhering to the tried and true structure of most underdog tales, Queen of Katwe monitors Phiona’s rise to prominence before overconfidence, family struggles and defeat knocks her down but hardly keeps her out from regaining balance.  Seamlessly tugging at viewer’s heartstrings, the mentor/student relationship between David Oyelowo the young Nalwanga succeeds in overwhelming audiences with emotion and giving reason to cheer during the traditionally quiet game of chess.  In addition, Lupita Nyong’o delivers another standout performance in a career of many as Phiona’s single mother who will stop at nothing to ensure her children’s well-being.  

    Shot inexpensively with its African locations capturing priceless photography, Queen of Katwe also welcomes the sounds of Uganda with soundtrack cuts from A Pass, Jose Chameleone and Goodlyfe Crew included alongside a newly produced song by Alicia Keys.  While its inspirational narrative doesn’t necessarily stretch the wings of what has come before it, Queen of Katwe excels with its prominently all black cast, evocative setting and Nair’s intimate direction all making exacting moves.  Inviting audiences to their latest tale of unconventional athleticism, Queen of Katwe honors Disney’s celebrated blending of family entertainment and true stories for another crowd pleasing checkmate.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Queen of Katwe with a stunning 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  Capturing the sunny shades of Uganda’s scenery, bold colors found in virtually all costume choices leap off the screen while, skin tones are radiant and always natural-looking.  In addition, the poverty stricken areas of Phiona’s household and the faded turquoise boards encompassing her chess training ground are captured with immaculate detail, allowing viewers to fully bask in a presentation of such crispness.  Equipped with an excellent DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that balances the transition of dialogue, bustling street ambiance and the film’s rhythmic song selections seamlessly, the track is nothing short of delightful.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Mira Nair, Queen of Katwe: Their Story (29:39), a three-part featurette exploring the filmmakers’ journey bringing the true story to fruition and the culture’s undeniable impact on the finished product plus, A Fork, A Spoon & A Knight (13:14), Nair’s original short film on the real Robert Katende, played by David Oyelowo in the film.  In addition, In the Studio with Alicia Keys (6:26), a “Back to Life” by Alicia Keys Lyric Video (5:01), “#1 Spice” by Young Cardamom & HAB Music Video (3:55) are also included alongside Deleted Scenes (20:25) with optional introductions by Director Mira Nair.  Lastly, Sneak Peeks (4:30) at Born in China, 2017’s Beauty and the Beast and Moana conclude the on-disc supplements while, a Digital HD Code is also included.

    Champions are often found in the most unlikely of places and circumstances.  Rising above poverty and a lack of education, Queen of Katwe brings welcome notice to the beauty and hardship of a Ugandan upbringing and the perseverance of the human spirit.  An inspirational journey ripe with heart and humor, Disney’s latest true story dramatization is a hit thematically while, its home video release exudes high-definition beauty and a worthy helping of bonus features including, the continued inclusion of a filmmaker’s commentary.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available January 31st from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Queen of Katwe can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Snowden (2016) Blu-ray Review

    Snowden (2016)

    Director: Oliver Stone

    Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson, Scott Eastwood, Timothy Olyphant, Rhys Ifans & Nicolas Cage

    Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the controversial true story, Snowden centers on intelligence employee Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, The Walk) who exposed the NSA’s illegal surveillance activities and the political and personal fallout of his decision.  Shailene Woodley (The Fault in Our Stars), Melissa Leo (The Fighter), Zachary Quinto (Star Trek Beyond), Rhys Ifans (The Amazing Spider-Man) and Nicolas Cage (Joe) costar.

    No stranger to tackling the events of recent history and leaving viewers grossly divided over their political intentions, Academy Award winner Oliver Stone (Born on the Fourth of July, World Trade Center) spotlights his most controversial figure to date in the equally grounded and thrilling Snowden.  Juxtaposing from the whistleblower’s 2013 revelation to journalists about the NSA’s secretive surveillance measures on citizens and his decade long ascent to prestigious positions within the CIA and other agencies, Snowden moves swiftly as it constructs the portrait of a brilliant individual willing to serve his country before profound truths question his very principles and threaten his livelihood if exposed.  Proving his abilities as one of his generation’s finest talents, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, possessing a solid resemblance to his real-life character and seamlessly capturing Snowden’s inherent shyness and uncanny speech mannerisms makes his performance a marvel to watch.  Complimented by especially noteworthy performances by Shailene Woodley as Snowden’s dedicated girlfriend Lindsay Mills, Rhys Ifans as Deputy Director Corbin O’Brian and an understated appearance by Academy Award Winner Nicolas Cage as a mentor to the titular character, Snowden bares no weaknesses in its casting calls for any of its talented thespians.  While Snowden’s ultimate decision to reveal his findings to the world were met with equal cries of praise and treachery, Stone’s dramatization of the events provides viewers with a deeper examination of the man’s personal life as well as his increased anxiety, diagnosis with epilepsy and the tightening noose of being privy to such information suffocating his moral compass and obligation to the people of the world.  With the effect of the actual events still impacting the world and people’s view of their governments, Snowden succeeds in navigating the political intricacies of the controversy with precision while, Edward’s personal journal and sacrifices remain the film’s priority delivering viewers an emotionally bonding and dramatically gripping experience that ranks as one of Stone’s best offerings in years.

    Universal Studios Home Entertainment presents Snowden with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Shot digitally, skin tones are captured with exceptional clarity and spot-on accurateness while, the sunny shades of the film’s Hawaiian sequences are richly projected with details seen in backgrounds of Edward and Lindsay’s apartments handsomely observed.  Equipped with a strong DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dynamics are not wholly diverse in the character-driven piece with dialogue relayed with the utmost crispness that serves it well.  Special features include, Deleted Scenes (8:51), Finding the Truth (3:57), a typical EPK with interview snippets from Stone, Gordon-Levitt and clips from the film plus, a Snowden Q&A (41:00) moderated by Matt Zoller Seitz, Stone, Gordon-Levitt, Woodley and the real Snowden (via satellite) are on hand in this conversational gathering that covers Snowden’s impressions of a film developed on him as well as the struggle of making the feature.  Lastly, Previews (9:38) for Triple 9, Spotlight, Dope, The Gunman, Rosewater, Nightcrawler, Chef and End of Watch round out the on-disc supplements with a DVD edition and Digital HD Code also included. 

    While the public at large will continue to remain divided over Edward Snowden’s controversial actions, Oliver Stone’s big-screen account of the events will keep moviegoers drawn into its complex questions of principles, freedoms and responsibility.  Chalking up another stirring performance from leading man Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Snowden keeps the global repercussions of the NSA reveal crucial if not secondary to Edward’s personal journey, ensuring an effectively more human story to emerge from the headline-fueled saga.  Meanwhile, Universal Studios Home Entertainment delivers pristine efforts in both video and audio although, special features remain overwhelmingly scant.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Snowden can be purchased via  Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Finest Hours (2016) Blu-ray Review

    The Finest Hours (2016)

    Director: Craig Gillespie

    Starring: Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Holliday Grainer, John Ortiz & Eric Bana

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the fascinating true story, The Finest Hours retells the greatest small-boat rescue in Coast Guard history where a deadly storm threatened the lives of countless sailors aboard a sinking oil tanker.  Led by Captain Bernie Webber (Chris Pine, Star Trek), the determination and actions of his crew would ultimately define unparalleled heroism.  Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone), Ben Foster (The Program), Holliday Grainer (Jane Eyre), John Ortiz (Togetherness) and Eric Bana (Deliver Us from Evil) co-star.

    Detailing the frightening 1952 rescue mission off the coast of Cape Cod, The Finest Hours is the latest of Disney’s inspirational tales lifted from the pages of history.  In one of his best roles to date, Chris Pine stars as disciplined Coast Guard crewman Bernie Webber whose love for local beauty Miriam Pentinen (Grainer) quickly escalates to a charming engagement.  Before long, the seas are struck with a devastating storm that leaves two separate oil tankers split in two with   their crews struggling to survive.  Tasked with an impossible mission, Webber is dispatched to rescue his fellow seamen with a limited crew and only a small boat as their steed.  Juxtaposing between the crew of the sinking ship, led by the resourceful Ray Sybert (Affleck), Webber’s own confrontations with 60-foot waves and the worried citizens on shore, The Finest Hours weaves a historically accurate account that submerges viewers through its increasingly tense circumstances with effective realism.  While Pine leads the film with heavy emotion, Grainer’s chemistry with her onscreen beau is equally noteworthy.  Meanwhile, Ben Foster, alongside Kyle Gallner (Jennifer’s Body) and John Magaro (Carol), provide powerful supporting performances as Webber’s crew mates while Eric Bana, appearing as Webber’s superior officer is largely forgettable.

    Helmed by Craig Gillespie (Million Dollar Arm and Fright Night, the latter released under Disney’s Touchstone Pictures banner), The Finest Hours may appear predictable yet, the exceptional staging of its disastrous sea sequences and uplifting finale greatly outweigh its foreseeable developments.  Theatrically released in 3D during the dead of winter, The Finest Hours would prove to be Disney’s first financial failure in a year of other box-office winners for the Mouse House.  Unfortunate and grossly unwarranted, The Finest Hours may possess shades of saccharine but ultimately triumphs as an important footnote in Coast Guard history, warmly retold with solid performances and impressive visual effects.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents The Finest Hours with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  Cloaked in constant darkness, nighttime sequences on dry land and at sea demonstrate impressive inkiness while skin tones are beautifully handled.  Although the film’s color scheme is far from vast, details are sharply identified in wardrobe choices making for an exceptional viewing experience.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is always audible with the crashing sounds of the sea’s violent waves making tremendous impact.  Bonus features include, Against All Odds: The Bernie Webber Story (14:10) where Director Craig Gillespie, Authors Michael J. Tougias, Casey Sherman and other key talent discuss the film’s true events with footage lifted from the actual town of Chatham, Massachusetts.  In addition, Deleted Scenes (4:28), Brotherhood (1:49), a standard EPK focusing on the camaraderie amongst the male actors, Two Crews (2:02) where the unique circumstances confronted by both crews in the film are briefly detailed and What Is Your Finest Hour? (1:02) where a Coast Guard member retells their most heroic moment are also included.  Finally, The Finest Inspiration: The U.S. Coast Guard (1:42) and a Digital HD Code round out the disc’s remaining supplements.

    Disney’s commitment to real world underdog tales has paid off once again with The Finest Hours.  While its basis may appear predictable from the onset, the emotional subtext and unbelievable odds confronted by the characters gives viewers a thrilling ride that will surely increase one’s appreciation for the fearless members of the Coast Guard.  Furthermore, Disney’s high-definition release is a remarkable sight that makes up for its limited bonus features.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, The Finest Hours can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Wrong Man (1956) Blu-ray Review

    The Wrong Man (1956)

    Director: Alfred Hitchcock

    Starring: Henry Fonda, Vera Miles & Anthony Quayle

    Released by: Warner Archive

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Master of Suspense Alfred Hitchcock (Strangers on a Train, Rear Window), The Wrong Man centers on blue-collar musician and loving family man Manny Balestrero (Henry Fonda, 12 Angry Men) who is wrongfully accused of robbery.  Emotionally distressed, Manny’s loving wife Rose (Vera Miles, The Searchers) begins losing her sanity while her suspected husband confronts a possible future behind bars.  

    Based on true events, Hitchcock’s influential docudrama is a harrowing depiction of themes commonly depicted in most of the auteurs work including, misidentification and authoritative fear.  Introducing the film in silhouette and barring himself from any distracting cameo appearances, Hitchcock’s final feature for Warner Bros. is composed with the utmost seriousness for its non-fictional source.  Struggling to make ends meet while, his wife requires dental work for the hefty sum of $300, Manny Balestrero (Fonda) seeks to take a loan out against his wife’s insurance policy only to be identified by several office workers as a multiple-offending robber.  Investigated by local detectives, Manny is questioned and whisked away to several businesses where he is accused once more for acts he did not commit.  After a tense interviewing process and a police conducted lineup, Manny is surreally charged and placed behind bars in what appears to be a living nightmare.  Miraculously making bail, Manny is reunited with his loving wife Rose (Miles) as they seek to clear his name by hiring noted attorney Frank O’Connor (Anthony Quayle, Lawrence of Arabia) to take his case.  Faced with the very real possibility of being found guilty, Manny and his wife push forward to establish several alibis before their grim reality takes an emotional tole on Rose forcing her to be hospitalized.  In what seems like impossible odds stacked against him, Manny’s entire livelihood hinges on the capture of his offending doppelgänger.

    Shot on location in New York City at many of the events actual locations including the now defunct Stork Club, The Wrong Man is intensely thrilling and shockingly potent for today’s society where the innocent are increasingly incarcerated under similar circumstances.  Bringing life to the city that never sleeps, Hitchcock’s on-site coverage welcomes an authenticity that highlights its smoke-filled alleyways and bustling energy that would permeate films to come.  Headlined by legendary talents, Henry Fonda and Vera Miles bring acute believability to their roles while, Miles’ emotional breakdown arguably overshadows her leading man at times.  Equally brilliant, the thespians give their all for achievements that rank highly amongst many of the greatest Hitchcock directed performances.  Tensely crafted and demonstrating the psychological strain an accusation places on the human spirit, The Wrong Man is unanimously found guilty of cinematic perfection.  

    Warner Archive presents The Wrong Man with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Gorgeously reproducing its monochrome photography, the film’s intended gritty appearance is left intact without sacrificing viewability with unfavorable levels of muddiness.  Furthermore, facial features are excellently detailed while, black levels are sound and inky with extremely fleeting instances of speckles spotted.  Beautifully handled, Warner Archive have done Hitch proud.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is strongly prioritized with no indication of hiss on hand.  In addition, the partying crowds at the Stork Club and Composer Bernard Herrmann’s (Citizen Kane, Vertigo) jazzy score make impressive statements.  Special features include, Guilt Trip: Hitchcock and The Wrong Man (20:19), this vintage retrospective offers insight on the film from Director Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show), Historians Robert Osborne & Richard Schickel, Art Director Paul Sylbert, Director Richard Franklin (Psycho II) and more.  Finally, the film’s Original Theatrical Trailer (2:35) is also included.

    Largely impacting Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, The Wrong Man is a deeply gripping examination of being wrongfully accused, heightened by its chilling real world roots.  Henry Fonda and Vera Miles give outstanding turns in their respective roles while, Hitchcock’s own deep-rooted fear of authority accounts for the film’s effectively unsettling atmosphere.  Meanwhile, Warner Archive’s exemplary work continues, leaving another Hitchcock classic in a glorious state.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Warner Archive, The Wrong Man can be purchased via WBShop.com,

    Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Bridge of Spies (2015) Blu-ray Review

    Bridge of Spies (2015)

    Director: Steven Spielberg

    Starring: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan & Alan Alda

    Released by: Touchstone Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Inspired by true events, Bridge of Spies centers on Brooklyn attorney James Donovan (Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump) who finds himself at the center of an international exchange involving a suspected Soviet spy (Mark Rylance, The Other Boleyn Girl) and a captured American U-2 pilot during the Cold War.  Amy Ryan (Win Win) and Alan Alda (The Aviator) co-star.

    In their fourth collaboration together, Director Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan) and Star Tom Hanks re-team for their latest fact-based opus set during the unpredictable days of the Cold War.  Following the FBI’s capture of suspected Soviet spy Rudolf Abel (Rylance) in Brooklyn, insurance lawyer James Donovan (Hanks) is summoned to his defense as a show of good faith to the American public that even their enemies are offered a fair trial.  Strongly believing that every person matters regardless of their stature, Donovan takes the case seriously much to the dismay of his firm and the watchful country.  Unsurprisingly found guilty, the determined lawyer’s abilities spare Abel’s life with a 30 year sentence, further infuriating the public who believes the elderly man should be put to death.  While sacrificing his respected reputation and risking the livelihood of his family, American U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell, Whiplash) is shot down over the Soviet Union and captured while, American grad student Frederic Pryor (Will Rogers, The Bay) is arrested as a spy on East Berlin soil.  With equal interests at play for their countries, Donovan is called upon to negotiate the risky transaction of Abel for the two Americans in the dangerous sector of East Berlin.

    A courtroom drama played on the battleground of war torn Europe, Bridge of Spies is a character-driven thriller that firmly establishes its associated time period and the uneasy fears of its citizens.  As the modern day Jimmy Stewart of his generation, Tom Hanks delivers yet another stellar performance as the common man whose beliefs are put to the test against larger than life circumstances.  Aided by an equally hailed supporting performance, Mark Rylance injects a gentleness and dry humor to his role as the accused Soviet spy making Donovan’s delicate role in ensuring his safety all the more emotional for viewers.  Although responsible for revising Matt Charman’s (Suite Française) screenplay, Ethan & Joel Coen’s (No Country for Old Men) contributions can largely be felt during the impactful negotiation sequences that easily rank as some of the film’s finest moments.  While some viewers may find themselves entertained yet, mildly restless following the Lincoln director’s third drama in a row, make no mistake, Bridge of Spies is as powerful and potent as anything Spielberg has undertaken.  

    Touchstone Home Entertainment presents Bridge of Spies with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Exquisitely handled, skin tones are remarkably defined and natural while, the mood setting lighting of Academy Award winning Cinematographer Janusz Kamiński (Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan) further accentuate its 1950s time period.  In addition, textures found in various costume choices and the unique color palettes of each country make impressive strides while, black levels are refreshingly inky and absent of any intrusive artifacts.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is strongly prioritized with city street ambiance, machine gun fire and Powers’ plane crashing sequence greatly impressing in this effective mix that mirrors its perfect video transfer.  Special features include, A Case of the Cold War: Bridge of Spies (17:45) where the filmmakers and their real-life counterparts detail the true events and its cinematic retelling, Berlin 1961: Re-creating The Divide (11:35) presents the historical locations of the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie and other behind-the-scenes moments and U-2 Spy Plane (8:45) explores the film’s plane crashing sequence with insight from Gary Powers, Jr.  Finally, Spy Swap: Looking Back on the Final Act (5:42) investigates the monumental exchange on the Glienicke Bridge and its shooting while, a DVD edition of the release and a Digital HD Code are also included.

    Substituting more fantastical flair for his latest historical drama, Bridge of Spies is another absorbing effort that continues to prove Spielberg’s eye for story and compelling visuals have yet to wither.  Headlined by the consummate performances of Hanks and Rylance, this Cold War based tale has all the markings of another Spielberg great.  Meanwhile, Touchstone Home Entertainment presents the film with unquestionably perfect technical merits and informative supplements that explores the film’s making and its fact-based history.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available February 2nd from Touchstone Home Entertainment, Bridge of Spies can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.                                           

  • The Walk 3D (2015) Blu-ray Review

    The Walk (2015)

    Director: Robert Zemeckis

    Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon, Clément Sibony, James Badge Dale & César Domboy

    Released by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on a true story, The Walk stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Looper) as daring wire walker Philippe Petit.  Mentored by the talented Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley, Schindler’s List) and assisted by a pack of loyal international accomplices, Philippe plans to illegally stage the greatest performance of his lifetime by walking across the newly constructed Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.  Charlotte Le Bon (The Hundred-Foot Journey), Clément Sibony (The Tourist), James Badge Dale (The Lone Ranger) and César Domboy (The Princess of Montpensier) co-star.

    Driven by determination and obsessive passion, Philippe Petit’s extraordinary journey from the streets of Paris to 1,350 feet above the city of New York remains an eternal testament to dreamers worldwide.  Based on Petit’s book To Reach the Clouds, The Walk traces his early beginnings as a juggler and amateur wire walker before inspiration strikes upon reading about the completion of the Twin Towers in New York City.  Donning blue contact lenses and perfecting the Frenchmans accent, Joseph Gordon-Levitt delivers one of his finest performances with his intense training from the real Petit beautifully shining through.  Striking up a romance with fellow street performer Annie (Le Bon) and a friendship with photographer Jean-Louis (Sibony), the trio journey east to aid Philippe in his death-defying performance.  The up and coming Le Bon is a striking presence while her chemistry with Gordon-Levitt accentuates the loving commitment the couple have to seeing their dreams come true.  In addition, Sir Ben Kingsley delivers a quaint performance as Philippe’s experienced mentor who although, uncertain of his protégées goals, learns to love him like a son and ensures his safety on his surreal adventure.  Morphing into a caper film of sorts, Philippe, accompanied by several other local New Yorkers, plot “le coup” by masquerading as construction workers, weaseling their way to the tower rooftops and rigorously setting the necessary wires under the shadow of the night.  Although its climax is well-documented, Zemeckis’ masterful direction, complimented by Alan Silvestri’s (Forrest Gump) swelling score, transports viewers on the wire with Philippe for a truly breathtaking finale.

    Although unfairly tanking at the box-office, The Walk is a stunning piece of cinema that delivers phenomenal visuals with an emotionally inspiring story.  Respectfully dedicated to the victims of September 11th, Director Robert Zemeckis' (Back to the Future, Flight) cinematic ode to the people of New York celebrates another memorable day in its history where strangers looked to the sky and were joined together by the magic of a man on a wire.  Powerfully moving and leaving viewers on the edge of their seat, The Walk is a remarkable effort destined to be celebrated for years to come.

    Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents The Walk with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Marvelously achieved during its theatrical presentation, its home video 3D is equally immersive and projects solid depth as Philippe makes his suspenseful walk across the towers.  Greatly adding to the visual experience, The Walk is destined to become one of the new year’s finest 3D offerings.  Meanwhile, its 2D presentation is excellently detailed with skin tones represented naturally and black levels, most appreciably during Philippe and Jeff’s nighttime rigging of the wires, looking inky and free of digital noise.  Wonderfully bringing life to the New York and Paris of the 1970s with boldly captured colors and sharp crispness, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has delivered a stunning transfer worthy of its praise.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is strongly supported while, Alan Silvestri’s score (one of 2015’s best) is exceptionally handled.  Crowded city streets and sound effects of wire clattering are also nicely balanced in a presentation that doesn’t stray far from its essential character driven dynamics.  Special features include, Deleted Scenes (5:44), First Steps: Learning to Walk the Wire (9:11) where Gordon-Levitt, alongside the real life Petit and Director Robert Zemeckis, share the actor’s firsthand experiences learning to wire walk.  In addition, Pillars of Support (8:27) focuses on the supporting cast that help pull off Philippe’s caper while, The Amazing Walk (10:48) explores the fascinating work recreating the Twin Towers and the film’s 3D effects.  Finally, Previews for Aloha (2:41), Ricki and the Flash (2:40), Concussion (1:57) and Risen (1:31) are included alongside a standard Blu-ray edition of the release and a Digital HD Code.

    Failing to attract audiences during a time where theatergoers uninterested in Hollywood blockbusters scream for originality and emotionally driving stories, the mystery of The Walk’s disappointing box-office performance further perplexes the mind.  Severely underappreciated, The Walk weaves a compelling narrative enforced by a phenomenal performance from Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  Serving as another highlight in a career of classics for Zemeckis, The Walk is the rare exception where 3D greatly supports its narrative and enhances the experience like no other.  Although falling short on special features, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment delivers an astounding A/V presentation while, its immersive 3D kicks the new year off right.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available January 5th from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, The Walk can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Deliver Us from Evil (2014) Blu-ray Review

    Deliver Us from Evil (2014)

    Director: Scott Derrickson

    Starring: Eric Bana, Édgar Ramírez, Olivia Munn, Sean Harris and Joel McHale

    Released by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of Sinister and Marvel Studios’ upcoming Doctor Strange, Scott Derrickson, leads you into a supernatural journey through New York’s gritty streets.  Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer (the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise), Deliver Us from Evil melds the worlds of the police procedural with the occult for a truly terrifying experience.  Presented by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Deliver Us from Evil urges you to hold fast to your faith...  you’ll need it.

    Inspired by actual accounts, Deliver Us from Evil centers on New York police officer Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana, Munich).  While, investigating a series of disturbing and unexplainable crimes, Sarchie discovers supernatural forces behind their doing.  Joining forces with a rebellious priest (Édgar Ramírez, Domino), the duo must confront demonic possessions that are overrunning the city.  Olivia Munn (The Newsroom), Sean Harris (Prometheus) and Joel McHale (Ted) co-star.

    MOVIE:

    No stranger to stories of the supernatural, Director Scott Derrickson took inspiration from Author Ralph Sarchie’s nonfiction work, Beware the Night, to weave his latest opus of horror.  Grounded in the urban reality of The Bronx, New York police officer Ralph Sarchie (Bana) attempts to maintain law and order against daily dangers on the job.  Encountering several unexplainable crimes linked to three Iraqi war veterans, the faithless Sarchie begins experiencing supernatural occurrences.  Pursued by a hard-drinking unconventional priest (Ramírez), Sarchie begins to believe in the otherworldly incidents plaguing his life.  When his family becomes entangled in the demons wrath, Sarchie must confront his own skeletons and assist his unlikely priest partner in religiously combating the evil.  Bana adapts a New York accent effortlessly while, channeling the proper attitude and aggression to portray a tough street cop.  Loving, albeit neglectful of his wife and daughter, Sarchie’s grim dealings of recovering deceased babies from dumpsters and responding to spousal abuse calls takes drastic tolls on his psyche.  Unfortunately, Bana’s performance slightly lacks by not showing a stronger sense of his conflicting emotions.  While, showcasing more anger and depression would have humanized the character more, Bana still delivers a performance worth standing by.  Meanwhile, Édgar Ramírez breaks the obvious conventions of clergymen with his Latin American ethnicity and dependency on cigarettes and booze.  Intensely serious, Ramírez does well in his role as exorcist while, harboring personal demons of his own.  The gorgeous Olivia Munn is often underused but, satisfies in her role as Sarchie’s dedicated wife.  The unusual casting of funnyman Joel McHale as Sarchie’s partner plays to the film’s advantage with his subtle comic relief and strong chemistry with Bana.  In addition, McHale’s aggressive training with knives pays off as his stunt scenes come off authentic and thrilling.

    While, Derrickson’s previous encounter with demonic possessions, 2005’s The Exorcism of Emily Rose, was more courtroom drama, Deliver Us from Evil shares more with 70s police dramas and Martin Scorsese’s underrated Bringing out the Dead.  Disturbing in its gritty realism of horrific crimes, the film’s supernatural layer of possessions, contorted bodies and inanimate objects moving, invokes a genuine sense of uneasiness and suspense.  With the exception of minor character flaws, Deliver Us from Evil is an effectively frightening effort in urban crime and demonic terror.  

    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:

    Deliver Us from Evil arrives in a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Shot in predominant darkness with endless nighttime sequences, somber overcasts and dimly lit offices, Deliver Us from Evil shines on the Blu-ray format.  Crisp and clear with no crushing whatsoever, detail is remarkable allowing for total appreciation of subtitles such as Bana’s five ’clock shadow and Sean Harris‘ outstanding prosthetic scars.  While, colors are virtually nonexistent in this supernatural tale, the intendedly grim appearance is flawless.

    RATING: 5/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Deliver Us from Evil packs a solid punch with dialogue relayed with no hitches.  The mix also makes great use of a variety of ranges, including subtle animals noises in The Bronx Zoo to the wildly booming intensity of the film’s climatic exorcism sequence.  Demonic gibberish, crashing glass and the impactful use of songs from The Doors earn this track a perfect seal of approval.

    RATING: 5/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Scott Derrickson

    • Illuminating Evil (13:36): This slightly brief, albeit informative, making of featurette traces the origins of the project and its appeal to the production team.  Co-Writer/Director Scott Derrickson, Co-Writer Paul Harris Boardman, Producer Jerry Bruckheimer and the core cast of Bana, Munn and McHale are all interviewed.

    • Deliver Us from Demons (8:25): Exclusive to the Blu-ray release, Prosthetic Makeup Designer Mike Marino shares his creative process crafting Sean Harris‘ detailed prosthetic scars.

    • The Two Sergeants (8:05): In another Blu-ray exclusive featurette, Co-Writer/Director Scott Derrickson and Star Eric Bana discuss the real Ralph Sarchie and the importance of capturing his mannerisms and intense personality.

    • The Demon Detective: “The Work” and the Real Ralph Sarchie (9:37): In this final Blu-ray exclusive, Author Ralph Sarchie is interviewed about his tenure on the New York Police force, his encounters with the supernatural and his current work as a demonologist.

    • Previews: Trailers include No Good Deed, The Equalizer, The Remaining, Predestination, Grace: The Possession and The Calling.

    • Digital HD Code

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:

    Continuing his successful genre efforts, Director Scott Derrickson has weaved an undeniably eerie and disturbing tale about a faithless law enforcer tasked with facing the devil.  Capturing a grim tone set in the real world hell of South Bronx, Deliver Us from Evil continues to widen Derrickson’s creative canvas as he plunges into “marvelous” worlds of magic and sorcery.  Much to the delight of viewers, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has delivered pitch perfect audio and video treatments with a wide-ranging spread of rich and informative bonus features.  Just in time for the Halloween season, enthusiasts of gritty cop dramas and supernatural thrillers will find much in Deliver Us from Evil to keep you equally entertained and unsettled.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Availble now, Deliver Us from Evil can purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Million Dollar Arm (2014) Blu-ray Review

    Million Dollar Arm (2014)

    Director: Craig Gillespie

    Starring: Jon Hamm, Pitobash, Aasif Mandiv, Lake Bell, Alan Arkin & Bill Paxton 

    Released by: Disney

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    No stranger to fact-based sports dramas, Disney has once again turned to the headlines to spin a new tale of inspirational underdogs akin to Miracle and Invincible.  From Director Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl, Fright Night), two Indian teens whisked away from their native land by unbelievable circumstances is what dreams are made of.  Headlined by a diverse cast of seasoned veterans and up-and-coming talent, Million Dollar Arm will leave you uplifted and applauding.

    Million Dollar Arm stars Jon Hamm (Mad Men) as sports agent JB Bernstein.  Along with partner Ash (Aasif Mandiv, Premium Rush), their recently formed company is struggling to make ends meet.  In a desperate attempt to attract talent, Bernstein travels to India to stage a pitching contest in order to discover untapped athletes.  Embarking on an inspirational journey of self-discovery and teamwork, Bernstein returns to America with two Indian youths to transform them into Major League players.  Pitobash (Shanghai), Lake Bell (Childrens Hospital), Alan Arkin (Argo) and Bill Paxton (Edge of Tomorrow) co-star.

    MOVIE:

    Sentimental and inspiring, Million Dollar Arm continues a long streak of successful true life sports tales Disney has perfected.  Based on the 2008 signing of Rinku Singh and Dinesh Kumar Patel to the Pittsburgh Pirates, Million Dollar Arm traces their incredible road from their desolate Indian land to the United States.  Jon Hamm leads the film as business-obsessed sports agent, JB Bernstein, at odds with keeping his independent company afloat.  Hamm does well in the role as a wealthy, self-absorbed man with little regard to anything other than signing the deal.  With money and resources dwindling, Bernstein hatches an idea to scour the unexploited region of India to discover their first Major League ballplayers.  Aided by a local interpreter (Pitobash) and talent scout (Arkin), Bernstein hosts Million Dollar Arm, a pitching contest to locate the finest talent with financial benefits for those selected.  Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi) and Madhur Mittal (Treasure Island) portray the fish out of water winners with ease, invoking wonderful emotion and humor in their performances.  Brought to America to hone their techniques with pitching coach Tom House (Paxton), Rinku and Dinesh have difficulty adjusting to their new surroundings.  Preoccupied with other business and neglecting his pupils, Bernstein must reevaluate his life to better understand the value of teamwork.  In addition, striking up a charming romance with his tenant (Bell), Bernstein learns to put his heart and others before business, allowing his young friends to rise above adversity.

    Far from a sports enthusiasts, Million Dollar Arm is precisely the kind of uplifting drama that moves you emotionally.  Slightly formulaic and predictable, Million Dollar Arm is still a wonderful film possessing strong values all audiences can relate to.  Destined to leave viewers with a lump in their throats by its finale, Million Dollar Arm is another heartfelt home run for Disney.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:

    Million Dollar Arm arrives with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  From the hot, sandy climate of India to the flashy Los Angeles cityscape, colors consistently shine with detail nicely relayed.  Skin complexions are accurate and warm while, black levels are handled nicely falling only a few hairs shy of perfection.  Clear and vibrant, Million Dollar Arm is a pleasing sight.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Million Dollar Arm continues to work its magic.  Character-driven, dialogue is heavy and always relayed clearly with no issues.  The hustle and bustle of the Indian sequences supply the mix with various background noises of traffic and car horns that are nicely balanced.  Composer A.R. Rahman’s (Slumdog Millionaire) score of blending western and eastern cultures is the track’s highlight.  Empowering each sequence and providing added boosts in authority, Rahman’s musical queues always reward the viewer.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Training Camp (6:18): Suraj Sharma and Madhur Mittal share their experiences preparing for the film with various trainers and ballplayers.

    • Their Story (2:54): A much too brief featurette focusing on the real JB Bernstein, Rinku Singh and Dinesh Kumar Patel discussing their incredible true story.

    • Million Dollar Music by A.R. Rahman (2:34): Rahman shares anecdotes about his approaches to the material and the various songs crafted.

    • Deleted Scenes: A collection of three brief and forgettable scenes understandably left out of the final cut, JB’s Problem (0:44), Sold (0:55) and I’d Take 10 Dollars (0:40).

    • Alternate Ending (0:49)

    • Outtakes (2:04)

    • Digital HD Code

    RATING: 2/5

    OVERALL:

    Filled with heart and a story of dreams coming true, Million Dollar Arm is an inspirational effort accomplished by a terrific cast, gorgeous locations and an effective score.  Marking another rousing success with sports dramas, Disney’s Blu-ray treatment, although short on features, is sure to satisfy fans with beautiful visual and audio treatment.  Million Dollar Arm may not stray far from most fact based films of this ilk but, it’s effectively told and will undoubtedly encourage tears of joy for some.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now, Million Dollar Arm can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.