Lion – Blu-ray Review

So, let’s talk about how awesome Sunny Pawar is who plays Young Saroo in Lion. From his first moments on screen, Pawar owns each scene he’s in; delivering a solid, realistic, and very touching performance that is mesmerizing and captivating to watch. Just from the first ten minutes of the film it’s easy to see why Lion was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and Best Supporting Actor and Actress.

Lion is a powerful and moving film that – as I made clear above – draws you into its world in the first few moments thanks to the great performance of Sunny Pawar as Young Saroo. It is Saroo’s strength of will and his determination as a young child that makes him more than just a run-of-the-mill movie kid. It’s this strong set-up that leads us to Dev Patel’s portrayal of Saroo as an adult, which would not be as impactful if not for the framework created by the acting skill of Sunny Pawar. Pawar is indeed the foundation on which Lion is firmly planted. And this film is very lucky to have him on board.

Lion is first and foremost about a journey of discovery, and Saroo’s journey is one that many who have been adopted have taken. While Saroo knows his family and was torn away from them by accident when his was five, as an adult he yearns to reconnect with them despite being adopted by a loving Australian couple played by Nicole Kidman and David Wenham. His desire to join his family in India once again is a strong and powerful force that once unleashed becomes a unstoppable goal of determination and tenacity. Will he succeed in his efforts to find the family he never meant to leave behind?

I won’t lie to you: this is a very emotional film – yes, I’ll admit I cried several times – and it’s thanks to the amazing performance of Sunny Pawar who captivates from the very beginning. Just stop reading this review now and go and watch it!

The special features include: Deleted Scenes; a Behind the Scenes Gallery; and the “Never Give Up” Performed by Sia – Official Lyric Video.

Rent it. Buy it. Watch it. Love it. Lion is a fantastic film that is an emotional journey from start to finish. I highly, highly recommend it!

Lion is available now of Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD.

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – Blu-ray Review

Many people have a love-hate relationship with the Star Wars film series. Many love the original trilogy that kickstarted it all in 1977. The initial film was a worldwide phenomenon that created a new generation of sci-fi fans and some of the most dynamic merchandising ever for a film. Since A New Hope, the Star Wars brand has spawned seven additional films including three sequels and four prequels.

While Episodes One, Two, and Three are generally reviled by hardcore Star Wars fans, there was a sense of redemption with 2015’s The Force Awakens. And now with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, it’s clear that the series has righted itself with both stalwart fans and newcomers alike.

Did you ever watch A New Hope and wonder how the rebels actually stole the plans to the Death Star? Well, wonder no more. In Rogue One we see exactly how this courageous mission was executed, and how a small group of heroes was able to steal and eventually save a universe from a malicious Empire. But it’s not what they are doing or why they are doing it – if you’ve seen Star Wars you know all that by now – it’s how they pull it off that makes it so fun and entertaining.

Rogue One is filled with great action and amazing effects that have become a staple in all Star Wars films, but here it’s especially engaging since this particular film has to blend the technology seen in 1977’s A New Hope “modern technology” with the more modern effects of 2017. And it works beautifully and seamlessly creating a world that seems familiar but unique in its scope and style.

There are plenty of so-called Easter Eggs to be sought after over the course of the film, and tiny cameos from characters from future Star Wars movies help ground the movie in the universe that has been a staple in cinemas for 40 years.

With its eclectic and energetic cast of characters, Rogue One delivers a solid story driven by Jyn (Felicity Jones), a fugitive who quickly finds herself and her past at the forefront of one of the biggest intergalactic conflicts known to humankind (no pressure there!). With her scrappy band of rebels by her side, Jyn is tasked with stealing the plans for the ominously named Death Star in order for the Rebels to find its weakness and destroy it before it destroys all who defy the Empire and its primary leader: Darth Vader (yep, he’s in this, too!).

Rogue One is fun, action-packed, and has a tone that differs from the other Star Wars films, which makes it – as I said before – unique but familiar.

There are so many Special Features that they had to be given their own Blu-ray disc. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s included:

A Rogue Idea – Hear how ILM’s John Knoll came up with the movie’s concept – and why it’s the right film to launch the Star Wars stand-alone films.

Jyn: The Rebel – Get to know Rogue One’s defiant, resourceful survivor, and hear what it was like for Felicity Jones to bring her to life onscreen.

Cassian: The Spy – Diego Luna shares insights into his complex, driven character, who becomes a hero through selflessness, perseverance and passion.

K-2SO: The Droid – Explore the development of this reprogrammed Imperial droid, from initial pitch and character design through Alan Tudyk’s performance.

Baze & Chirrut: Guardians of the Whills – Go deeper into the relationship between these two very different characters, with Chinese superstars Jiang Wen and Donnie Yen.

Bodhi & Saw: The Pilot & The Revolutionary – Forest Whitaker and Riz Ahmed reflect on Saw Gerrera, the broken Rebel leader, and Bodhi Rook, the Imperial pilot who defects.

The Empire – Meet a dangerous new Imperial adversary…and cross paths once more with the most iconic villain of all time.

Visions of Hope: The Look of Rogue One – The filmmakers describe the challenges and thrills of developing a bold new look for the movie that can fit within the world of the original trilogy.

The Princess & The Governor – See what it took to bring the vibrant young princess of Star Wars: A New Hope – as well as one of her most memorable foes– – back to the screen.

Epilogue: The Story Continues – Filmmakers and cast celebrate Rogue One’s premiere and look forward into the future, to the Star Wars stories yet to be told.

Rogue Connections – Uncover Easter eggs and film facts hidden throughout the movie that connect Rogue One to the Star Wars universe.

I really, really enjoyed Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I highly recommend it!

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is available April 4, 2017 on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD, and Combo Packs!

What’s your favorite Star Wars movie? Leave a comment and let us know!

Wishmaster Collection – Blu-ray Review

When you think of the concept of a Genie, many things may come to mind. The hilarious Genie from Aladdin voiced by Robin Williams (1992). The gorgeous Jeannie played by Barbara Eden from I Dream of Jeannie (1965-1970). Maybe it’s Shaq in the kid-friendly Kazaam (1996). Or even Jeannie and Babu from the short-lived Hanna-Barbera cartoon, Jeannie (1973). But what if genies weren’t well-intentioned, kindly, and oftentimes comical manifestations that appear from a lamp to grant their so-called “master” three wishes? What if there was something malicious in store for the one who summoned them?

Welcome to the world of Wishmaster. A world where the phrase “Be careful what you wish for” has never been more apt, and in this four film series, what a person wishes for can have very deadly consequences. In fact, deadly, disgusting, and demoralizing are all perfectly accurate words to describe what the evil Djinn has in store for those who seek his services.

If you haven’t guessed by now, Wishmaster is a horror franchise that started in 1997 and spawned three sequels: Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies (1999), Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell (2001); and Wishmaster 4: The Prophecy Fulfilled (2002). Only the original Wishmaster made it to the big screen and was produced by horror master Wes Craven.

The first, like many franchises, is the best of the series with plenty of great practical horror effects, a game cast that includes Tammy Lauren (The Young and the Restless, Martial Law), Robert Englund (the original A Nightmare on Elm Street series), and Andrew Divoff (Lost, Air Force One), and an intriguing storyline with plenty of jumps and scares for horror fans. While it’s also has the shortest runtime of the four, it’s also the best in terms of narrative setup and execution without being too excessive.

Following the law of diminishing returns – as most horror franchises often do – the three movies that follow are not nearly as intriguing, but the basic premise remains the same throughout. I also felt that the films lost the magic and fun that the original had. After Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies, the Djinn is recast with John Novak who does a decent job in the role, but Divoff’s presence is definitely missed.

Now, I can’t place all the blame of the filmmakers. After all, some premises are hard to stretch and prolong for a series of films. Heck, some films can’t even stretch their premise across just one storyline, let alone many. But like the Saw and Final Destination franchises, the characters are less important than the creative manner in which each victim is killed. And if it’s kills you want, this franchise is chock full of ‘em in every manner and method possible. And isn’t that essentially why we watch films like this? It’s not for the acting or the story, it’s for the inevitable blood and gore.

The Wishmaster Collection is a very impressive box set with four films on three Blu-ray discs. There are many, many special features, the bulk of which are for the original film. The full rundown for each film is as follows:

WISHMASTER SPECIAL FEATURES
o Audio Commentaries:
· Director Robert Kurtzman and screenwriter Peter Atkins
· Director Robert Kurtzman and stars Andrew Divoff and Tammy Lauren
o Isolated Score Selections/Audio Interview with composer Harry Manfredini
o Featurettes
o “Out of the Bottle” – Interviews with director Robert Kurtzman and co-producer David Tripet
o “The Magic Words” – An Interview with screenwriter Peter Atkins
o “The Djinn and Alexandra” – Interviews with stars Andrew Divoff and Tammy Lauren
o “Captured Visions” – An Interview with director of photography Jacques Haitkin
o “Wish List” – Interviews with actors Kane Hodder and Ted Raimi
o Vintage Featurette: “Making of Wishmaster
· Trailers, Spots, Galleries: Teaser & Theatrical Trailers, TV & Radio Spots, Storyboard & Still Galleries
· Behind-the-Scenes Footage Compilation

WISHMASTER 2: EVIL NEVER DIES SPECIAL FEATURES
o Audio Commentary with writer/director Jack Sholder
o Trailer
o Still Gallery

WISHMASTER 3: BEYOND THE GATES OF HELL SPECIAL FEATURES
o Audio Commentary with director Chris Angel and cast members John Novak, Jason Connery, and Louisette Geiss
o Vintage Featurette: “Making of Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell
o Trailer

WISHMASTER 4: THE PROPHECY FULFILLED SPECIAL FEATURES
o Audio Commentaries:
· Director Chris Angel and cast members Michael Trucco and Jason Thompson
· Director Chris Angel and actor John Novak
o Featurette: “Wishmasterpiece Theatre”
o Trailer

Horror movies are meant to scare and entertain, and sometimes we can learn a lesson or two from those nefarious evildoers who wish to cause the characters harm. Perhaps Wishmaster is a morality play about the dangers of greed and excess in the modern age. Perhaps the Djinn has come to tell the world that even free wishes come at a price; and that price is your soul!

I enjoyed the series, and while the first one was by far the best, the rest were Saturday afternoon escapist fare that was still enjoyable. I recommend the Wishmaster Collection!

The Wishmaster Collection is available now on Blu-ray!

What is your favorite Wishmaster scene or film? Leave a comment and let us know!

Ali & Nino – DVD Review

A love that transcends two differing cultures. A time of war determined to keep them apart. A life both are desperate to have together despite the obstacles. Ali & Nino is an enchanting and thought-provoking love story that shows that love can sometimes overcome anything. Even in a time of cultural unrest, with countries choosing sides for both political and financial gain, the attraction between two young lovers can never be diminished.

Set against the backdrop of the early stages of World War I, Ali & Nino introduces us to our young couple: the headstrong and confident Nino (Maria Valverde) and Ali (Adam Bakri). It is clear that they are a pair that truly have designs on a future together in spite of their religious and cultural differences (Nino is Christian, Ali is Muslim). Both are welcomed and accepted by the parents of the other, and all seems well.

Until the war begins.

The sudden change in the political climate throws Ali and Nino’s plans to marry into upheaval. It is the overriding conflict itself that threatens to rip their future together apart and tear their love asunder. Will Ali and Nino find love once again and rekindle the flames of passion the war threatens to snuff out for good?

Religion is a key factor in the narrative of the film, and what screenwriter Christopher Hampton executes so beautifully is showing both Muslims and Christians as people instead of ideologues and caricatures of the cultures they represent. These are real people with real issues, loves, hopes, and dreams. He shows that even with differences it’s our similarities that matter most in the long run and allow us to live together in peace.

This is an extraordinary film. Superb acting. A great story. Beautiful cinematography. It’s a period piece set in a time that is rarely explored in film, which makes the narrative all the more intriguing. I was also delighted to see a few familiar faces with Mandy Patinkin (The Princess Bride, Homeland) and Connie Nielsen (Gladiator, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) co-starring as Nino’s parents.

I highly recommend Ali & Nino!

Ali & Nino is available now on DVD.

Disney’s Moana – Blu-ray Review

Disney has done it again! Moana is fun, exciting, mesmerizing, and energy-filled family fun! I truly enjoyed every moment of this tale about a young girl and her quest to save her people and the island they inhabit. The adventure is at full sail as Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) teams with demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) on a mission that takes her to new and exciting places she once only dreamed of seeing.

Disney is a master at pulling together humor, heart, music, and story into a feast for all the senses; and Moana is no exception. In fact, it’s one of their best yet! I loved the setting, the time period, the characters, and the ancient lore that drives Moana to seek out Maui’s assistance on her quest. Every aspect of the film is solid, and I laughed as much as I cried throughout the films many ups and downs.

Did I mentioned I loved this movie!?

Along with Moana, the blu-ray includes lots of special features:

Maui Mini-Movie: Gone Fishing

This was very short, but also very fun!

Short Film: Inner Workings

With a brief intro by its creators, Inner Workings is another solid short from the creative minds at Disney.

Deleted Song: “Warrior Face”

Voice of the Islands

Things You Didn’t Know About…

Find out interesting trivia about the cast.

Island Fashion

They Know the Way: Making the Music of Moana

Music Video – “How Far I’ll Go” sung by Alessia Cara

Deleted Scenes

Fishing for Easter Eggs

If you enjoyed Tangled, Frozen, or any past Disney animated classic, I know you’ll LOVE Disney’s Moana! It’s grade-A entertainment!

Disney’s Moana is available now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download!

What’s your favorite Moana moment? Leave a comment and let us know!

Chronic – DVD Review

Tim Roth is a man who literally stares death in the face in the drama, Chronic. Roth plays David, a middle-aged widower who takes care of terminally ill patients until their untimely demise. He’s a compassionate, caring, and thoughtful man who takes great pride in providing those in his care with the utmost comfort and assistance until they pass on. As David connects with those he knows will soon be gone, he also begins the healing process of digging himself out of a dark depression. He helps the patients and in they help him in this heart-wrenching film.

While the film may be a serious and oftentimes melancholy narrative, it’s the way in which Writer/Director Michel Franco has artfully shot the piece that catches the eye. The average film in 2017 is composed of 1250 shots; many action films have 3000+. Chronic has a mere 97. Franco also utilized static shots with no camera movement for extended periods of time almost as if you are looking at and analyzing a photo as you watch the events unfold.

This minimalist approach toward such intimate subjects – depression, illness, death – makes for an even more impactful film that lingers long after you’ve finished viewing it. Franco’s unique style definitely makes him more than a director and more of an auteur with a distinct style much like Kubrick, Hitchcock, and Fellini had.

If you hadn’t figured it out from the opening of this review, Chronic is a challenging film to watch due to its subject matter and themes. While that may be the case, it’s also rather beautiful in its simplicity of story, shots, and acting. Each actor gives an A-list performance that brings a realism and depth to each scene. The film even won an award for Best Screenplay at Festival De Cannes.

The DVD includes the featurette Behind the Scenes of Chronic, which contains interviews with the director and Tim Roth. It’s a fascinating watch if you are a filmmaker or a person who is intrigued by the creative process.

I recommend Chronic, but bring the tissues and brace yourself for a very emotional journey.

Chronic is available now on DVD.