X-Men: Apocalypse

Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams  

 

 

 

 

It's Mutants vs. Mutants in 9th Installment of Beloved Marvel Franchise X-Men: Apocalypse is the 9th installment in the much-beloved, Marvel Comics franchise launched back in 2000. This episode is the 4th directed by the series' originator, Bryan Singer, whose sophisticated touch always allows an audience to enjoy a relatively-cerebral cinematic experience.

Thus, this character-driven adventure includes not only the trademark action sequences featuring flamboyant exhibitions of superpowers but also an absorbing plotline that keeps the brain engaged for the duration of the story. The upshot is a film for kids of all ages that's memorable for more than its state-of-the-arts special f/x.

The fun starts in Cairo in 1983, which is where we we find the ancient mutant Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) rising from the dead. Disenchanted with the world's current state of affairs, he decides to destroy civilization and start over.

Although Apocalypse is already the most powerful mutant around, he recruits a quartet of renegades to assist him in his nefarious endeavor. Dubbed the Four Horsemen, the confederacy is composed of Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and Archangel (Ben Hardy), representing War, Famine, Pestilence and Death, respectively.

It is almost too late by the time the forces of good finally catch wind of Apocalypse's diabolical scheme, as cities from New York to Sydney are suddenly under attack. And when X-Men leader Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) falls under Apocalypse's spell, his protege, shape-shifting Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), rises to the occasion to rally the next-generation of mutants in the defense of the embattled planet.

Among her cohorts are telekinetic Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), teleporting Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee, supersonic Quicksilver (Evan Peters), brawny and brilliant Beast (Nicholas Hoult), laser-eyed Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) and CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne). Initially, they prove no match for Apocalypse, who has been harnessing an assortment of awesome powers for several millennia.

Only by pooling their skills and resources very effectively are our intrepid protagonists able to conquer evil, save the free world and thereby survive for another sequel.

 

Excellent (3.5 stars)

Rated PG-13 for violence, action, destruction, suggestive images and brief profanity

In English, German, Polish, Arabic and Ancient Egyptian

Running time: 144 minutes

Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Deleted and extended scenes with optional introductions by director Bryan Singer; gag reel; wrap party video; audio commentary by Bryan Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg; behind-the-scenes documentary; and a photo gallery.

 

To see a trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XoshDoECyq8

To order a copy of the X-Men: Apocalypse Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit:

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01G9AXWH2/ref=nosim/thslfofire-20

Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words

DVD Review by Kam Williams  

 

 

 

 

Reverential Rockumentary Revisits Career of Late Rock Icon

 

Frank Zappa (1940-1993) is best remembered as the front man and lead guitarist of the Mothers of Invention, the avant-garde rock band that started developing a dedicated cult following in 1966 with the release of its debut album, "Freak Out!" The group's irreverent, anti-establishment anthems satirizing the status quo resonated with the emerging Hippie Generation's counter-cultural attitudes.

The long hair and rebel image overshadowed Frank's roots as a classical virtuoso influenced by such 20th Century greats as Edgar Varese and Igor Stravinsky. He began composing chamber music at the age of 14 and didn't write his first rock song with lyrics until after he turned 21.

Even after finding fame, Frank remained desperate to be taken seriously as an artist. Consequently, he quite obviously became quite frustrated over the course of his career by the constraints imposed by his packaging as a hippie rock idol.

An inveterate iconoclast, he was also very outspoken on subjects ranging from politics to drugs to the music business. And he often confounded journalists with his surprising stances on prevailing social issues. For example, he was extremely anti-drugs in an era when many of his fans and contemporaries were experimenting with marijuana, LSD and other so-called recreational narcotics.

In terms of his record company, he hated the fact that MGM had the nerve to censor his tunes without his permission. He further observed that, in general, "Musicians are regarded as useless adjuncts of society, unless you write a Coca-Cola jingle."

A free speech advocate, he felt that "Dirty words are a fantasy manufactured by government fanatics and religious organizations to keep people stupid." Just as suspicious of the Left and the Right, he asserted that "Any sort of political ideology that doesn't take into account people's differences is Fascistic."

Eat That Question is a reverential rockumentary directed by Germany's Thorsten Schutte. The informative film contains reams of archival footage featuring its loquacious subject expounding his personal philosophy. The intriguing biopic includes some performances, too, but the cerebral production proves far more fascinating when focusing on what made the man tick than on his music.

A riveting retrospective plumbing the depths of the brilliant mind of a Renaissance man underappreciated in his own time.

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated R for profanity, sexual references and brief nudity

Running time: 93 minutes

Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

To see a trailer for Eat That Question, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eB7XUpSUnoQ To order a copy of Eat That Question on DVD, visit: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN//B01IPGM5VC/ref=nosim/thslfofire-20%C2%A0

Central Intelligence

Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams  

 

 

 

 

Kevin Hart and The Rock Co-Star in Unlikely-Buddies Comedy

 

Back in high school, Calvin (Kevin Hart) was voted "Most Likely to Succeed" while his chubby pal Bob (Dwayne Johnson) was being bullied by classmates because of his weight.. But that was a couple of decades ago, and a lot has changed since then.

Today, we find Calvin wondering whether he might have peaked during his glory days at Central High when he and his childhood sweetheart Maggie (Danielle Nicolet) were voted Homecoming King and Queen. Yes, the two did marry, but the relationship's been so rocky she's currently insisting they enter therapy. Things are even worse for Calvin at his accounting firm, where he's just been passed over for a promotion to partner.

By comparison, Bob's fortunes have improved immeasurably over the intervening years. He's not only shed all that unwanted baby fat but he's re-sculpted himself into a veritable Adonis by pumping iron a half-dozen hours a day. Furthermore, he's flourishing in an enviable career as a crack CIA Agent well-versed in the tools of international espionage.

The pair's paths cross for the first time in years at their 20th high school reunion where Calvin is impressed by both Bob's new physique and his daring line of work. So, it's no surprise that the suave spy is able to enlist the jaded pencil pusher's technical assistance on his latest assignment. He also could use a little help apprehending the assassin who murdered his partner (Aaron Paul).

That's the point of departure of Central Intelligence, an unlikely-buddies comedy directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber (We're the Millers). Kevin Hart has proven himself quite the master of the genre, given the success of such box-office hits as The Wedding Ringer, Get Hard and Ride Along 1 and 2, to name a few. Unfortunately, Kevin and co-star Dwayne Johnson fail to generate any chemistry, despite sharing the screen in scene after scene of silly slapstick.

The bulk of the picture's pathetic attempts at humor revolve around contrasting buff Bob's bravery with weak-kneed Calvin's cowardice. But sadly, the laughs are few and far between during this decidedly-underwhelming action-adventure.

Too bad whoever directed the promising trailer probably didn't direct the movie.

 

Fair (1 star)

Rated PG-13 for violence, sexuality, nudity, crude humor and brief profanity

Running time: 107 minutes

Distributor: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment Group

Blu-ray Extras: Director's commentary; gag reel; alternate scenes; Line-O-Rama; Couch Scene; and a Dance-Off.

 

 

To see a trailer for Central Intelligence, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxEw3elSJ8M To order a copy of Central Intelligence on Blu-ray, visit: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01H4FJQ2G/ref=nosim/thslfofire-20

The Shallows

Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams  

 

 

 

 

Blake Lively Shines as Surfer Stranded in Shark-Infested Waters

 

Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) was so shaken by her mother's (Janelle Bailey) untimely death that she's dropped out of med school. In order to feel closer to her dearly departed mom, she's decided to vacation at the same exotic Mexican retreat where she was reportedly conceived back in 1991. An avid surfer, she also plans to search for the stretch for her mom's favorite beach.

Upon arriving, Nancy is so impatient to find that idyllic, uncharted spot, that she impulsively heads for the ocean with her surfboard, handbag and smartphone, abandoning her bushed traveling companion at the hotel. Instead, she accepts a ride to the shore from the very obliging Carlos (Oscar Jaenada), an affable local yokel who is more than happy to serve as the bikini-clad hitchhiker's chauffeur and navigator.

He drives away right after depositing her at the secluded cove, yet Nancy has no qualms about being left alone, since she does have cell service. Next thing you know, she's blissfully paddling out to deep water where she's surrounded by a pod of playful dolphins as she starts riding the mammoth waves.

The plot thickens soon after she spots the bobbing carcass of a humpback whale. What Nancy doesn't recognize until it's too late is that she's inadvertently entered the feeding grounds of a still-hungry shark who'd rather dine on human flesh than cetacean.

She subsequently suffers a nasty gash from the initial attack but is somehow able to swim to a tiny, low-lying island nearby. Her medical training comes in handy as she quickly fashions a tourniquet from part of her outfit.

Still, with high tide coming in a matter of hours, she knows that she's got to figure out how to survive once this temporary sanctuary sinks below sea level. The shore is 200 yards away, which is way to far to swim with a determined predator steadily circling as her blood drips into the water.

A couple of potential rescuers (Jose Manuel Trujillo Salas and Angelo Josue Lozano Corzo) show up, but hope fades fast when the dopey duo simply starts swimming without noticing the damsel-in-distress. The next beachgoer (Diego Espejel) does see that Nancy's in need, but he seizes the opportunity to steal her phone and other personal effects left on the sand.

This means spunky Nancy must survive by her wits, a daunting challenge given her dire straits. Thus unfolds The Shallows, an engaging, edge-of-the-seat thriller expertly directed by Jaume Collett-Serra (Non-Stop) to ratchet up the tension.

The movie borrows elements from Jaws (headstrong, maniacal shark), Castaway (this stranded heroine bonds with a seagull instead of a volleyball), Blue Crush (oodles of gratuitous titillation) and MacGyver (a brilliant tinkerer exhibits endless ingenuity). The good news is that it all has been sewn together quite seamlessly yielding a thoroughly enjoyable screamfest reminding us that it's still not safe to swim in the ocean. Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG-13 for bloody images, intense scenes of peril and brief profanity

Running time: 86 minutes

Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Blu-ray Extras: Deleted scenes; Shooting in the Shallows; How to Build a Shark; When Sharks Attack; and Finding the Perfect Beach: Lord Howe Island.

 

To see a trailer for The Shallows, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgdxIlSuB70

To order a copy of The Shallows on Blu-ray, visit:

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01HH7KC60/ref=nosim/thslfofire-20

Free State of Jones

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Review by Kam Williams  

 

 

 

Matthew McConaughey Stars as Rebel Soldier-Turned-Slave Revolt Leader

 

While the slave raids led by Nat Turner and John Brown have been well documented in the annals of American history, the relatively-successful exploits of another notorious abolitionist insurrectionist have somehow slipped through the cracks. At least until now.

Newton Knight (Matthew McConaughey) was born and raised in Jones County, Mississippi, the grandson of a slave owner, making him, at first blush, a very unlikely figure to mount a revolt. He even served as a medic in the Confederate army during the Civil War, but was disheartened to learn how the sons of large plantation owners had been exempted from the military draft. And he was further demoralized the day a fresh young recruit (Jacob Lofland) from his hometown who had just joined his unit perished in battle upon reaching the front lines.

No longer seeing any sense in poor people fighting to preserve the privileges of the very rich, Newt impulsively went AWOL, the dead boy's body in tow. He returned to Jones where he is quickly identified as a deserter. After being abandoned by his wife (Keri Russell) and having his farm confiscated by the Confederacy, he flees for his life, finding sanctuary in a swamp deep in the woods inhabited by a handful of escaped slaves.

There, he befriends Moses (Mahershala Ali), a runaway bothered by an iron collar that had been soldered around his neck by a sadistic slave master. Newt, a blacksmith by trade, gains the group's trust by freeing the beleaguered black man from the torturous contraption.

He soon emerges as its very charismatic, spiritual leader, founding the Free State of Jones on a quartet of core principles promoting racial equality. Gradually, its ranks swell to over 250, with both ex-slaves and disaffected Rebels joining.

In this oasis of racial harmony, Newt proceeds to fall in love with Rachel (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a beautiful black woman who bears him a son. Thus unfolds Free State of Jones, a reverential biopic written and directed by four-time Oscar-nominee Gary Ross.

Matthew McConaughey shines from beginning to end in a star vehicle where the virtuous protagonist is never allowed to exhibit a flaw. This costume drama proves compelling enough, primarily because nobody knew such a scenario could possibly have unfolded in a Southern state like Mississippi supposedly marked by segregation and intolerance.

An overdue history lesson about an important chapter in America's long march to freedom.

 

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated R for brutal battle scenes, an ethnic slur and disturbing images

Running time: 139 minutes

Distributor: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extra: The History of Jones County

 

To see a trailer for Free State of Jones, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_38WdArR20

 

To order a copy of the Free State of Jones Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit:

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01HIPKKY0/ref=nosim/thslfofire-20

Now You See Me 2

DVD Review by Kam Williams  

 

 

 

 

Consummate Magicians Reunite for Another Cloak-and-Dagger Adventure

 

It's been three years since we last saw the world's greatest illusionists, aka the Four Horsemen, playing a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse with the FBI. Now, the master magicians have resurfaced for a mesmerizing, mindbending adventure which ups the ante in terms of both audacity and visual capture.

This bombastic, bells-and-whistles sequel is given to wowing the audience via a combination of spectacular stunts and a dizzying array of exotic locales. Just don't expect much in the way of a coherent plot and this pretentious, globe-trotting fantasy will never disappoint you.

Directed by Jon M. Chu (Jem and the Holograms), the picture co-stars Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Dave Franco who reprise their lead roles as Merritt, Daniel and Jack, respectively. Lizzy Caplan rounds out the principal cast as Lula, replacing Isla Fisher as a members of Four Horsemen. The A-list ensemble also includes Academy Award-winners Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine, as well as Daniel ("Harry Potter") Radcliffe and Sanaa Lathan.

After needlessly filling in a superfluous bit of backstory from 1984, the movie fast-forwards to the present where we find our heroes being blackmailed by Walter Mabry (Radcliffe), a billionaire bad boy bent on world domination. He has designs on "The Stick," a powerful computer chip which will afford him unfettered access to the back door of every computer on the planet.

Of course, the skeptical quartet proves adept at staying a step ahead of the megalomaniacal misanthrope. For, instead of accommodating the creep, they proceed to flaunt their seemingly-supernatural powers in daring displays of hocus-pocus.

Yes, the group is supposedly worried about restoring its tarnished reputation, too. However, that concern definitely takes a back seat to staging a series of increasingly-implausible magical acts.

Plus, there's a healthy competition among the four which has each endeavoring to outdo the other. The ensuing ever-escalating feats make great fodder for an eye-popping blockbuster, even if what's served up on screen is purely a product of cartoon physics.

 

Excellent (3.5 stars)

Rated PG-13 for violence and some profanity

Running time: 129 minutes

Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment

DVD Extras: Audio commentary by director Jon M. Chu; and "You Can't Look Away" featurette.

 

To see a trailer for Now You See Me 2, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1KXFU2Zp0c To order a copy of Now You See Me 2 on DVD, visit: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01H0O3X4I/ref=nosim/thslfofire-20

Nina

DVD Review by Kam Williams  

 

 

 

 

 

Saldana Does Simone in Warts-and-All Biopic

 

Most of the pre-release buzz surrounding this controversial biopic swirled around the debate about Zoe Saldana's darkening her skin, donning an afro wig and wearing a prosthetic nose to portray Nina Simone (1933-2003). Apparently, in these politically-correct times, some consider the casting of Saldana as the dark-skinned title character to be a case of cultural appropriation, since she is of Dominican and Puerto Rican extraction and thus, by implication, not black enough to play an African-American.

The beleaguered actress was so beat up in the press that she's even publicly acknowledged the micro-aggression, admitting "I didn't think I was right for the part." However, I suspect anyone who actually sees the film would find Zoe's Africanized features to be less of a distraction than her singing.

For, while she certainly manages to hold her own, Nina's fans will undoubtedly be more disappointed by the absence of the haunting strains of The High Priestess of Soul's distinctive voice than by her impersonator's performing in blackface. Again and again, it's frustrating to have to settle for second-rate renditions of such Simone classics as "My Baby Just Cares for Me," "Feeling Good," "Black Is the Colour," "To Be Young, Gifted and Black," "I Put a Spell on You," and "Why? (The King of Love Is Dead)."

Thankfully, Zoe does a better job in the acting half of the role, convincingly capturing Nina's mercurial personality, from the imperious air, to the violent mood swings, to the substance abuse, to the bouts of depression and self-doubt. The movie marks the writing and directorial debut of Cynthia Mort who reportedly distanced herself from her own production, at one point suing over the final cut because she had lost creative control over the editing.

The story unfolds in North Carolina in 1946 with an adolescent Nina exhibiting promise as a classical pianist. From there, the film fast forwards to New York in 1965 where we learn that the once-promising prodigy has been reduced to playing jazz in nightclubs after having dropped out of Juilliard.

The narrative quickly shifts to L.A. in 1995, where we find her already on the downside of an illustrious career. She's just been committed to a mental hospital after being diagnosed as an alcoholic, paranoid, manic-depressive.

As luck would have it, Nina was assigned an empathetic nurse (David Oyelowo) who would take a special interest in her welfare. Not only did Clifton Henderson help her escape the facility but he quit his job to accompany her to France where he would serve as her personal assistant.

It is that relationship which would endure until the end of Nina's life that is the focus of this warts-and-all biopic. Clifton spends as much time simply cleaning up the verbally-abusive, chain-smoking, substance-abusing fading star's act, as he does trying to find her gigs, given her well-earned reputation as a difficult diva.

Ignore all the blackface haters, singing aside, Zoe Saldana delivers a decent enough Nina Simone impersonation here to make you wonder what all the brouhaha was ever about. Very Good (3 stars)

Unrated

Running time: 90 minutes

Distributor: Image Entertainment

DVD Extras: None To see a trailer for Nina, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BElZ7FMp5uY

To order a copy of Nina on DVD, visit:

https://www.amazon.com/Nina-Zoe-Saldana/dp/B01COCKF38/ref=sr_1_1_twi_dvd_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1472892212&sr=1-1&keywords=nina+dvd

Money Monster

Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams  

 

 

 

 

Angry Investor Takes TV Host Hostage in Real-Time Thriller

Kyle Budwell (Jack O'Connell) was a working-class guy from Queens who never had enough cash in the bank to play the market until his mother died and left him $60,000. Against his better judgment, the rough-edged truck driver put every penny of that inheritance into Ibis Clear Capital, a security being promoted by TV money guru Lee Gates as "safer than a savings account."

Gates is the glib host of Money Monster, an investment advice show on the mythical FNN Network. The clownish character played by George Clooney was obviously inspired by bombastic Jim Cramer of CNBC's Mad Money.

Anyhow, in less than a month, Gates' "stock pick of the millennium" goes bust, leaving Kyle frustrated, broke and at the end of his rope. Next thing you know, he shows up at the television station with a gun looking for answers.

He crashes the set of Money Monster during a live airing, and proceeds to place a vest filled with explosives on Lee. Producer Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) gives in to Kyle's demand that the show continue to broadcast.

Finger on the trigger, he proceeds to grill Lee about the stock collapse while ranting and raving about how "The system is rigged!" Kyle's sure that Gates must have been aware that the stock was going to tank, and he demands that all of the Ibis shareholders be reimbursed their $800 million in losses.

Meanwhile, the police descend on the set, led by patient Captain Powell (Giancarlo Esposito) who summons a hostage negotiator. During the ensuing standoff, the truth about Ibis slowly emerges in front of millions of viewers, and the company's CEO, Walt Camby (Dominic West), becomes implicated in a shady manipulation of his stock.

So unfolds Money Monster, a high-octane thriller directed by Jodie Foster. This movie is also a modern morality play which levels some serious accusations at Wall Street. Credit goes to George Clooney and Julia Roberts for committing fully to a production resting on a farfetched premise that could've very easily proved unconvincing in less talented hands.

A riveting, real-time thriller featuring palpable screen chemistry courtesy of a couple of reliable matinee idols!

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated R for pervasive profanity, brief violence and some sexuality

Running time: 99 minutes

Studio: Smokehouse Pictures

Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Blu-ray Extras: Deleted scenes; George Clooney: The Money Man; Inside the Pressure Cooker; Analysis of a Scene: The Showdown; Dan the Automator's "Money" music video..

 

To see a trailer for Money Monster, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qr_nGAbFkmk

To order a copy of Money Monster on Blu-ray, visit: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01FIHL706/ref=nosim/thslfofire-20%C2%A0

Requiem for the American Dream

DVD Review by Kam Williams  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Noam Chomsky Issues Urgent Appeal on Behalf of Rapidly-Disappearing Middle-Class

 

MIT Professor Noam Chomsky has been an outspoken critic of the Establishment ever since opposing the Vietnam War way back in the Sixties. At 87, the controversial firebrand is now decrying the incredible gulf between the filthy rich and the rest of us.

He is the subject of Requiem for the American Dream, a cautionary documentary delineating the consequences lying in wait for a nation where wealth is concentrated in the hands of the top 1/10th of 1% at the expense of the rapidly-disappearing middle-class. Co-directed by Peter D. Hutchison, Kelly Nyks and Jared P. Scott, the movie was culled from interviews conducted with Chomsky over the past four years.

Nevertheless, the talented trio managed to edit the footage into a very engaging and enlightening monologue bemoaning the current state of the union. The upshot is a fascinating film featuring a "less-is-more" format reminiscent of the one employed by Errol Morris in his Oscar-winning Fog of War (2003).

The picture basically consists of close-ups of Chomsky shot against a black backdrop as he talks about the Machiavellian manipulations employed by the power elite. It also intermittently interweaves illustrative file footage of suffering and decadence into the production to help drive home the aging grass roots activist's salient points.

Chomsky begins by waxing romantic about the Golden Age of the Fifties and Sixties when the American Dream was still within the grasp of the Average Joe. He says that was the period when the U.S. populace benefited the most from the host of domestic programs implemented by President Roosevelt. However, the affluent have always hated the New Deal, especially Social Security and the Glass-Steagall Act, which explains why they have repeatedly attempted to repeal those measures.

Chomsky states that, in addition, the privileged have deliberately crippled our democracy to such a degree that public opinion no longer has any influence on politicians. Just consider how it has been impossible to get Congress to pass a bill making it harder for the mentally ill to purchase a gun, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of voters support the common sense idea.

Overall, what we have here is vintage Chomsky issuing a rabble-rousing, rallying cry intended to rouse the masses before it's too late. America redefined as a civilization in sharp decline and on the verge of collapse because of the very greedy's systematic elimination of class mobility from the society.

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Unrated .

Running time: 73 minutes

Studio: PF Pictures

Distributor: FilmRise

DVD Extras: Theatrical trailer.

 

To see a trailer for Requiem for the American Dream, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zI_Ik7OppEI

To order a copy of Requiem for the American Dream on DVD, visit: https://www.amazon.com/Requiem-American-Dream-Noam-Chomsky/dp/B01BT1VXAY?ie=UTF8&redirect=true&tag=thslfofire-20

Keanu

DVD Review by Kam Williams  

 

 

 

 

Key & Peele Co-Star as Slumming Geeks in Fish-Out-of-Water Comedy Rell (Jordan Peele) was so inconsolable after being dumped by his girlfriend that getting high didn't help ease the pain. But then, while crying on the shoulder of his cousin Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key), a cute, little kitten appeared on his doorstep.

Seeing this as a sign of divine intervention, Rell adopted the adorable stray, which he proceeded to feed, bathe and name Keanu, Hawaiian for "cool breeze." But after bonding for the next couple of weeks, his newfound state of bliss ended abruptly with the kidnapping of Keanu during a break in by members of the 17th Street Blips.

The Blips are a ruthless drug gang from the wrong side of the proverbial tracks. So, Rell realizes that to rescue his pet he's going to have to venture into the heart of the ghetto.

This is a tall order for a nerd from the burbs totally unfamiliar with the ways of the 'hood. for some reason, he enlists the assistance of his equally-geeky cousin, whose wife (Nia Long) and daughter (Jordyn A. Davis) very conveniently just happen to be going away for the weekend.

Rell and Clarence adopt gangsta' alias, Tectonic and Shark Tank, respectively, before confronting Cheddar (Method Man), the Blips' bloodthirsty kingpin. They also deliberately abandoned their bourgie black accents for grammar-butchering Ebonics laced with profanity, the N-word and lots of double negatives.

Of course, retrieving Keanu proves to be quite complicated, as not only Cheddar but a Latino crime boss (Luis Guzman) has staked a claim to the cat (which he refers to as Iglesias). And it is very important that the cousins never admit their middle-class roots lest they risk being exposed as lacking street cred.

Thus unfolds Keanu, a one-trick pony or, should I say, a one-trick kitty directed by Peter Atencio, director of 54 episodes of the Key and Peel TV show. This fish-out-of-water comedy repeatedly relies on the theme that these guys have no idea how to survive in the slums on the run from myriad maladroit morons. That running joke gets tired after about 10 minutes, but the stretch-o-matic skit format insists on beating the dead horse for another hour and a half.

That's irritainment!

 

Fair (1 star)

Rated R for violence, sexuality, nudity, drug use, inncessant ethnic slurs and pervasive profanity

Running time: 100 minutes

Distributor: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment Group

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Deleted scenes; gag reel; and Keanu: My First Movie.

 

To see a trailer for Keanu, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9zy27apgI8

 

To order a copy of the Keanu on Blu-ray, visit: https://www.amazon.com/Keanu-Blu-ray-Jordan-Peele/dp/B01DYX9Y9M?ie=UTF8&redirect=true&tag=thslfofire-20

Barbershop: The Next Cut

DVD Review by Kam Williams  

 

 

 

 

Calvin and Company Get Real in Chicago

There's been a big change at Calvin's Barbershop since our last visit over a decade ago. The once-sacred male sanctuary has been converted to a unisex salon, and some feisty female employees have brought a new flava to the former man cave, including manager Angie (Regina Hall), flamboyant Draya (Nicki Minaj) and cynical Bree (Margot Bingham).

Besides Ice Cube as Calvin, among the regulars reprising their roles are Jazmin Lewis as his wife, Eve as Terri, Cedric the Entertainer as Eddie, Anthony Anderson as J.D., Sean Patrick Harris as Jimmy, and Troy Garrity as Isaac. The cast also boasts a number of newcomers, most notably, scene-stealing J.B. Smoove as motor-mouthed One-Stop, Deon Cole as Dante, and Common whose character, Rashad, is married to Eve.

As the film unfolds, we're treated to a montage of file footage featuring Reverend Al Sharpton and Father Pfleger, as well as news stories about the uptick in drive-by shootings on the South Side of Chicago. The situation has left Calvin in a quandary about whether it might be wise to relocate the establishment to a safer section of the city.

More importantly, he's worried about the safety of his adolescent son, Jalen (Michael Rainey, Jr.), despite the fact the boy is enrolled at Holy Cross Catholic School. For, on his way home, the kid has to negotiate his way through a gauntlet of gangstas pressuring him to join their ranks.

Meanwhile, street violence seems to claim another young person's life on a daily basis, with some of it hitting a little too close to home. This inspires Calvin to host a peace summit in a desperate attempt to negotiate a ceasefire between the bitter rivals, the Vice Lords and the G.D.s.

Besides addressing the escalating murder rate, the picture does devote plenty of scenes to its trademark levity. One moment, we're treated to an old-fashioned battle-of-the-sexes. The next, there's a debate over President Obama's commitment to the black community. And the most comic relief comes courtesy of trash-talking One-Stop, who has an endless supply of market items for sale: nickel bags of weed to baby pit bulls to watermelon-flavored fried chicken.

Directed by Malcolm Lee (The Best Man), Barbershop: The Next Cut proves to be a pleasant surprise in that it tones down the campy comedy in favor of a serious social agenda. Easily the best installment in the beloved franchise, a movie which manages to entertain while delivering a sobering message that's long overdue.

Third time's a charm for Ice Cube & company!

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG-13 for profanity, ethnic slurs and sexuality

Running time: 112 minutes

Distributor: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment Group

Blu-ray Extras: Gag reel; deleted scenes; and The Next Cut: Barbershop Bootcamp.

To see a trailer for Barbershop: The Next Cut, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2vPDGStL4k

 

To order a copy of Barbershop: The Next Cut on Blu-ray, visit: https://www.amazon.com/Barbershop-Next-Blu-ray-Digital-Ultraviolet/dp/B01E9MU072?ie=UTF8&redirect=true&tag=thslfofire-20

Miles Ahead

DVD Review by Kam Williams  

 

 

 

 

Miles Davis Biopic Starring Don Cheadle Comes to DVD

 

It's no secret that Don Cheadle wanted to make a movie about Miles Davis (1926-1991) for over a decade. Well, the wait is finally over for jazz fans eager to see the warts-and-all biopic chronicling some of the highs and lows of the legendary trumpeter's checkered career.

 

Cheadle not only produced, directed, and co-wrote his labor of love, but handles the title character in a haunting performance where he manages to channel the spirit of Miles oh so convincingly, from the gravelly voice to the mercurial temperament.

 

But while the impersonation might be spot on, the surreal screenplay leaves a lot to be desired. The script eschews a conventional, chronological approach to storytelling in favor of a free form structure featuring a series of vignettes focusing less on the man's music than his messy private life.

 

The picture's point of departure is 1975, when we find Miles in the midst of a self-imposed, five-year break from the music business. He spends his days barricaded in his New York apartment consuming copious amounts of drugs to mask the pain caused by a chronic hip condition.

 

The plot thickens with the intrusion into this fortress of solitude of a pushy Rolling Stone reporter (Ewan McGregor) in search of a scoop about a rumored comeback. Dave Braden proceeds to circumvent a very skeptical Davis' disdain for journalists by agreeing to serve as his chauffeur and to procure cocaine on his behalf. Unfortunately, Dave also has a hidden agenda, namely, gaining possession of the master tape of Miles' next album, if it exists.

 

Meanwhile, the icon is conveniently given to reminiscing about his past, which allows for intermittent flashbacks, most about his tempestuous relationship with his first wife, Frances (Emayatzy Corinealdi). Too bad Miles' impressive body of work is given short shrift. except for the handful of classics on the soundtrack.

 

An improvisational cinematic portrait of a jazz giant whose prodigious cultural contributions play second fiddle to a plethora of his personal failings.

 

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated R for drug use, nudity, sexuality, brief violence and pervasive profanity

Running time: 100 minutes

Studio: Crescendo Productions

Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Blu-ray Extras: Commentary with director Don Cheadle and co-writer Steven Baigelman; The Truth: Becoming Miles Davis; and 2016 Q&A with Don Cheadle, Ewan McGregor, Emayatzy Corinealdi and LaKeith Lee Stanfield.

 

To see a trailer for Miles Ahead, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssfTNCTVT5U

To order a copy of the Miles Ahead on Blu-ray, visit: https://www.amazon.com/Miles-Ahead-Blu-ray-Michael-Stuhlbarg/dp/B01F1WTLDI?ie=UTF8&redirect=true&tag=thslfofire-20

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

DVD Review [Ultimate Edition] by Kam Williams Patience-Testing Adventure Pits the Man of Steel against the Caped Crusader

 

 

Let's face it, Christian Bale's Batman was going to be a hard act for any actor to follow, especially Ben Affleck who had already proved underwhelming as a superhero when he played Daredevil back in 2003. And the departure from the franchise of Chris Nolan, the legendary director of the critically-acclaimed Dark Knight trilogy, only served to lower expectations even further.

  Thus, it's no surprise that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice would indeed prove to be a bitter disappointment. The picture was directed by Zack Snyder who also helmed the 2013 reboot of Superman, called Man of Steel.

  The first problem with this terribly-flawed, second offering in the DC Extended Universe series rests in its interminable 2-and-1/2 hour running time that could have easily been trimmed down to less than 90 minutes. For example, why bother revisit the backstory about what inspired Bruce Wayne to become Batman, when the murder of his parents had previously been addressed in numerous other episodes?

  The second issue with the production has to do with Batman and Superman's (Henry Cavill) being cast as adversaries for the bulk of the film. Yes, the source of the tension between the two is adequately explained, but the audience nevertheless grows increasingly impatient since we'd much rather see our beloved heroes quickly resolve their differences in favor of joining forces to fight a real villain.

  After all, there is an eminently detestable adversary waiting in the wings in the person of the diabolical Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). Too bad this tortoise-paced blockbuster takes forever to arrive at that epic showdown. Instead, we're forced to endure the meaningless machinations of a convoluted adventure less concerned with coherency than with atmospherics, action and special f/x.

  Besides those superficial bells and whistles, director Snyder exhibits an annoying fondness for support characters with nothing much to do, from Clark Kent's colleague Jimmy Olsen (Michael Cassidy), to his boss Perry White (Laurence Fishburne), to Bruce Wayne's butler Alfred (Jeremy Irons). The film also features a plethora of cameo appearances by celebrities Neil deGrasse Tyson, Anderson Cooper, Brooke Baldwin, Soledad O'Brien, Nancy Grace and Dana Bash who merely distract from rather than advance the plot.

  More enjoyable are the relatively-purposeful roles played by Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). But by the time the long-awaited battle royal with Luthor and his henchman Doomsday (Robin Atkin Downes) finally rolls around, you're so tired of peeking at your watch that you just want it over and done with as fast as possible. Make it stop!

 

A classic case of moviemaking excess resulting in a patience-testing blockbuster adding up to way less than the sum of its parts.

 

 

Fair (1 star) Rated PG-13 for intense violence, pervasive action and some sensuality Theatrical Version Running time: 151 minutes Ultimate Edition Running Time: 182 minutes Distributor: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment Group Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Uniting the World's Finest; Gods and Men: A Meeting of Giants; Accelerating Design: The New Batmobile; Superman: Complexity & Truth; Batman: Austerity & Rage; Wonder Woman: Grace & Power; Batcave: Legacy of the Lair; The Might and the Power of a Punch; The Empire of Luthor; Save the Bats; and The Warrior, The Myth, The Wonder. To see a trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WWzgGyAH6Y

To order a copy of the Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit: https://www.amazon.com/Batman-Superman-Ultimate-Theatrical-UltraViolet/dp/B01DEBC7Q6?ie=UTF8&redirect=true&tag=thslfofire-20

The Perfect Match

DVD Review by Kam Williams  

 

 

 

 

Terrence J and Cassie Ventura Co-Star in Cross of "Love Jones" and "The Best Man" Confirmed bachelor Charlie Mack (Terrence J) is always up-front with women about his dating philosophy, simply, "I don't do relationships." The shameless playboy's almost 30, and his womanizing ways have become an embarrassment to his family and friends. They feel it's high time for him to mature, especially after he brought his latest conquest (Chantel Jeffries) along on a blind date.

Besides, his BFFs, Ricky (Donald Faison) and Victor (Robert Christopher Riley) have both already settled down. The former is married and doing his best to impregnate his desperate for a baby wife, Pressie (Dascha Polanco). And the latter is engaged to Ginger (Lauren London) who's worried that Charlie's going to ruin her impending wedding by "bringing one of those floozies" to the reception.

Meanwhile, Charlie's therapist sister Sherry (Paula Patton) is willing to see her brother as a client, if that would help him figure out why he's such a pathetic case of arrested development, at least when it comes to romance. Otherwise, Charlie's actually rather well-adjusted. He's a well-paid executive at Premier Edge, a leading L.A. PR firm where he's proven to be quite adept at attracting lucrative new accounts to the company.

The plot thickens one evening when he's out having drinks with the guys and they challenge him to remain faithful to the same woman for the next month..Charlie takes the dare, and settles on Eva (Cassie Ventura), a gorgeous stranger he just met at a coffee shop, as the object of his affection.

However, he still gets involved with the express understanding that theirs will be a "no strings, no expectations" relationship. She agrees, despite the fact that she's only used to being in committed ones. So, they're both ostensibly operating in uncharted waters.

Will this libidinous liaison turn into love, now that Charlie has grudgingly agreed to give what would ordinarily be a one-night stand a chance to blossom? That is the burning question at the center of The Perfect Match, an intriguing romantic romp directed by Billie Woodruff (Addicted).

Fair warning: this character-driven escapade is certainly not for the prudish, as it contains frontal nudity and some fairly frank dialogue. That being said, it's also funny, engaging, unpredictable and visually-captivating, courtesy of a constant parade of eye candy across the screen.

Overall, this delightful ensemble dramedy is reminiscent of a couple of other great urban classics, Love Jones (1997) and The Best Man (1999). That's good company!

 

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated R for nudity, sexuality and pervasive profanity

Running time: 96 minutes

Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Blu-ray Extras: Making The Perfect Match; What's Love without Comedy; Nobody's Perfect; and Chillin' with the Perfect Cast: Cast & Director Commentary.. To see a trailer for The Perfect Match, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKCFkFaIwU0 To order a copy of The Perfect Match on Blu-ray, visit: https://www.amazon.com/Perfect-Match-Blu-ray-Digital-HD/dp/B01EU4TP6G?ie=UTF8&redirect=true&tag=thslfofire-20

Miracles from Heaven

DVD Review by Kam Williams  

 

 

 

 

 

Faith-Based Drama Recounting Miraculous Recovery Released on DVD

 

Annabel Beam (Kylie Rogers) was born in Burleson, Texas where she was raised by her parents on a farm surrounded by cats, dogs, goats, cows and a donkey. She enjoyed an idyllic childhood there with her sisters, Abbie (Brighton Sharbino) and Adelynn (Courtney Fansler), until the age of 10 when she started experiencing severe stomach pains.

Christy Beam (Jennifer Garner) rushed her daughter to an emergency room doctor who snap-diagnosed the malady as a combination of lactose intolerance and acid reflux. But when his course of treatment for those conditions failed, the frightened mother next took Anna to a a gastroenterologist (Bruce Altman) who determined that she was suffering from an obstruction of the small bowel which called for immediate surgery.

He referred them to a highly-regarded physician in Boston specializing in intestinal disorders. However, Dr. Nurko (Eugene Derbez) had a nine-month waiting list which meant the little girl was likely to pass away before the appointment.

Frustrated by an inability to help her rapidly-deteriorating daughter, Christy began to question her faith when Anna asked, "Why do you think God hasn't healed me?" Of course, it didn't help the situation any when a couple of fellow parishioners had the nerve to suggest that the affliction might be punishment for sin. In response, Christy told her husband (Martin Henderson) she was through with church, at least until Anna was healed.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. So, Christy decided to show up at Dr. Nurko's office unannounced and thereby embarrass him into seeing Anna. While the ploy did work, an MRI, endoscopy and a battery of other tests essentially confirmed that Anna was not long for this world and should get her affairs in order.

The two return home, but not before being befriended by a waitress with a heart of gold (Queen Latifah) who takes them on a whirlwind tour of Beantown in her junky jalopy. The prospects aren't very brilliant for Anna back in Burleson until the fateful day she falls down a hollowed tree trunk, hits her head and blacks out.

When she comes out of the coma, lo and behold, her bowels have been miraculously healed. Furthermore, she proceeds to relate how she had just visited Heaven and even had a heart-to-heart with her Creator.

That is the sum and substance of Miracles from Heaven a faith-based docudrama adapted from Christy Beam's best-selling memoir of the same name. Directed by Patricia Riggen (The 33), this wholesome family flick features a touching tale of survival with a measure of Christianity mixed in.

The Lord working in mysterious ways designed to elicit an "Amen!" from believers in the Amen Corner.

 

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated PG for mature themes

Running time: 109 minutes

Studio: Affirm Films

Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Blu-ray Extras: Accounts From Annabel ; Miracles Abound: The Making of Miracles From Heaven; Bearing Witness; Creating Heaven: Concept Art Exploration; "Your Words" Music Montage; Commentary with director Patricia Riggen and screenwriter Randy Brown; and deleted scenes.

To see a trailer for Miracles from Heaven, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CldGTG6iVrU

To order a copy of the Miracles from Heaven Blu-ray, visit: https://www.amazon.com/Miracles-Heaven-Blu-ray-UltraViolet-Jennifer/dp/B01D1U6V58?ie=UTF8&redirect=true&tag=thslfofire-20

Criminal

DVD Review by Kam Williams  

 

 

 

 

Ryan Reynolds' Brain Swap Drama Arrives on DVD CIA Agent Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) was in London on assignment to deliver a ransom to a computer hacker called the "The Dutchman" (Michael Pitt) when he was assassinated en route by a terrorist (Jordi Molla) with a vicious gun moll (Antje Traue). This would ordinarily be a big loss for the Agency, given the veteran spy's talents and abilities.

Luckily, government scientist Dr. Franks has been working on transferring memories from one brain to another. And while he's been successful in several attempts with animals, he considers himself five years away from being ready for human trials.

Nevertheless, given the emergency, he is instructed to immediately implant Pope's mind into that of Jericho (Kevin Costner), a death-row inmate in desperate need of a new lease on life. Next thing you know, the psychopathic murderer awakens from the experimental surgery raring to track down The Dutchman as well as the creeps who killed Pope.

That is the point of departure of Criminal, a sci-fi splatterfest directed by Ariel Vromen (The Iceman). Curiously, the movie marks Ryan Reynolds' third venture into the brain swap genre, his previous being last fall's Self/less. There, however, he played the recipient rather than the organ donor.

There isn't much point to my reciting the scatterplot storyline, since it makes even less sense than the picture's farfetched premise. Still, this high body-count, action thriller is apt to have a certain appeal to testosterone-sodden males seeking to satiate their blood lust by watching folks being blown away in spectacular fashion.

In the process, the film fritters away the services of an impressive cast which includes Reynolds, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman and Kevin Costner. The film features a fair amount of eye candy, too, in Antje Traue, Alice Eve, Natalie Burn and Gal Gadot who plays Pope's widow, Jill. As you might easily imagine, She and her daughter, Emma (Lara Decaro), are in for the surprise of their lives when hubby/daddy returns reincarnated as a redeemed convict in need of a loving family.

A novel enough spin on the brain switch theme to recommend, provided you're very willing to suspend disbelief and you've got a strong stomach for senseless gore.

 

Good (2 stars)

Rated R for pervasive profanity and graphic violence.

Running time: 113 minutes

Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Blu-Ray DVD Combo Pack Extras: Deleted scenes; director's notes; "Criminal Intent" featurette; and Madsonik's "Drift and Fall Again" music video. To see a trailer for Criminal, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNfRQ4NBjUU

To order a copy of the Criminal Blu-Ray DVD Combo Pack, visit:

https://www.amazon.com/Criminal-Blu-ray-DVD-Digital-HD/dp/B01GFZG42Q?ie=UTF8&redirect=true&tag=thslfofire-20

The Young Messiah

DVD Review by Kam Williams  

 

 

 

 

 

Biblical Tale Speculates about Formative Year in Life of Christ Child

 

2015 was certainly a banner year for Christian-oriented fare, with over 30 faith-based films being released in theaters. 2016 appears to be following suit, with Risen, The Lady in the Van and The Witch among the offerings already featuring heavy religious overtones.

Directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh (The Stoning of Soraya M.), The Young Messiah is a Biblical bildungsroman chronicling critical events which transpired during a momentous year in the life of the Christ child (Adam Greaves-Neal). The intriguing historical drama was adapted from "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt," a best seller by the legendary Anne Rice, the Grand Dame of Gothic Fiction.

That debut foray into Christian-themed literature represented a big departure for Rice who nevertheless earned Beliefnet's 2005 Book of the Year for her opus based on the Gospels as well as on theological scholarship. And now Nowrasteh has brought a version of the story to the big screen certain to capture the imagination of the target churchgoing demographic.

After all, the New Testament reveals precious little about Jesus' formative years, and this ambitious project manages to flesh them out ever so convincingly. As the film unfolds, we find Him living in Alexandria and behaving like your typical 7 year-old while His parents, Mary (Sara Lazzaro) and Joseph (Vincent Walsh), struggle with how to go about explaining the concept of God to His own Son.

We also learn that they have been living in exile because of King Herod's (Jonathan Bailey) order his soldiers to massacre all the young boys of Bethlehem. The maniacal despot was determined to prevent the rumored Messiah from ever seizing the throne. Herod's demise frees the family to return home, although the obsessed centurion Severus (Sean Bean) is still searching for Jesus and sees a little King of the Jews lurking behind every rock.

Meanwhile, Jesus goes about inadvertently healing His sick uncle, curing a blind rabbi, and raising both a bully and a bird back from the dead. And He performs plenty of random acts of kindness, too.

But He remains desperate for an explanation of these superpowers until Mary finally 'fesses up about everything from the Immaculate Conception to the Virgin Birth to His divine destiny. A plausible, cinematic parable presuming to fill in gaps in the Biblical narrative of the Lord's early life. Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG-13 for violence and mature themes

Running time: 111 minutes

Distributor: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: The Making of The Young Messiah; deleted scenes; and feature commentary with director Cyrus Nowrasteh and co-writer Betsy Giffen Nowrasteh.

 

To see a trailer for The Young Messiah, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5EynFdirgmY

To order a copy of The Young Messiah Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit:

https://www.amazon.com/Young-Messiah-Blu-ray-DVD-Digital/dp/B01DN2USU8?ie=UTF8&redirect=true&tag=thslfofire-20

London Has Fallen

DVD Review by Kam Williams  

 

 

 

 

 

 

High-Octane Sequel Employs "When in Doubt, Blow It Up!" Approach

The conventional wisdom for shooting a sequel to a successful action flick is that "bigger is better." In the case of this bigger-budgeted follow up to Olympus Has Fallen, that translates to bigger guns, more elaborate chase scenes, a higher body-count and more bombastic pyrotechnics, including my favorite staple of the genre, exploding cars careening off cliffs in flames.

Directed by Babak Najafi, London Has Fallen again stars Gerard Butler as Mike Banning, the Secret Service Agent in charge of protecting the President of the United States. Also reprising their roles are Radha Mitchell as his wife, Leah; Aaron Eckhart as President Asher; Morgan Freeman as Vice President Trumbull; Angela Basset as Secret Service Director Lynne Jacobs; Melissa Leo as Secretary of Defense Ruth McMillan; and Robert Forster as General Clegg.

At the point of departure, we find the Banning picking out paint samples for their first baby's nursery. Leah is due in a couple weeks, and the prospect of fatherhood has Mike seriously contemplating retirement. But before he has a chance to tender a letter of resignation, word arrives that the British Prime Minister has just passed away unexpectedly.

Over his worried wife's objections, Mike grudgingly agrees to join the detail accompanying the President to the funeral. Despite very heavy security in London, all hell breaks loose when radical Muslims disguised as Bobbies and Beefeaters open fire, assassinating several of the 28 leaders of the Free World in attendance.

Mike instinctively springs into action, endeavoring to escort the President via limo from Westminster Abbey back to Air Force One. Of course, this is easier said than done, since it's almost impossible to tell the good guys from the bad, and terrorists armed with automatic weapons and RPGs are lying in wait at every turn. Also aboard for the hair-raising, roller coaster ride are Director Jacobs , Agent Bronson (Andrew Pleavin), and an MI6 Agent (Charlotte Riley) they encounter along the way.

With the help of cartoon physics and a bulletproof physique, Mike ultimately manages to prevail against the army of bloodthirsty jihadists doing the bidding of the diabolical mastermind, Aamir Barkawi (Alon Aboutboul). Let's just pray that he's up for a third round of heroic exploits to keep the world safe for freedom and democracy.

 

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated R for graphic violence and pervasive profanity

Running time: 100 minutes

Distributor: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: The Making of London Has Fallen; and Guns, Knives & Explosives.

 

To see a trailer for London Has Fallen, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9y3z-lx-ZE

To order a copy of the London Has Fallen Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit:

https://www.amazon.com/London-Has-Fallen-Babak-Najafi/dp/B01CRFKWXK?ie=UTF8&redirect=true&tag=thslfofire-20

Triple 9

DVD Review by Kam Williams  

 

 

 

 

 

 

A-List Cast Expertly Executes Cat-and-Mouse Crime Thriller

 

Irina Vlaslov (Kate Winslet) assumed the reins of an Atlanta-based crime syndicate after her husband Vasili (Igor Komar) was sent up the river. Despite the jailing of the ruthless mobster, the gang's operations have continued to flourish with the help of corrupt police officers and ex-Marines. One crooked cop, Marcus Belmont (Anthony Mackie), even has a young son (Blake McLennan) with Irina's sister, Elena (Gal Gadot), which makes him all the more vulnerable to manipulation.

Like a Russian version of the Mexican drug lord El Chapo, Vasili is just itching to get out of jail. So, Irina hatches a plan to spring him from prison with the help of the various authorities she already has in a compromising position.

In 25 words or less, the scheme involves issuing a phony 9-9-9, the police code for "officer down," since every police car would be immediately dispatched to the scene not only to assist the wounded brother in blue but to apprehend the perpetrator. Theoretically, at least, that drain on available resources would afford Irina's henchmen an opportunity to strike.

Thus unfolds Triple 9, a rather riveting cat-and-mouse caper directed by Aussie John Hillcoat (The Road). The over-the-top action thriller featuring an intriguing plot was written by first-time scriptwriter Matt Cook.

Its cast includes an array of A-list actors topped by Kate Winslet, Woody Harrelson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Casey Affleck, Anthony Mackie, Teresa Palmer and Michael Kenneth Williams. Having so many talented thespians pays off in spades for a picture which proves compelling from beginning to end.

At heart, Triple 9 is a nihilistic adventure set in a disturbing, urban dystopia filled with nothing but untrustworthy backstabbers. That makes it darn near impossible to find a protagonist to root for besides Sergeant Jeffrey Allen (Harrelson), a clean detective capable of smelling a rat.

The wily veteran in charge of the investigation must negotiate his way down a dangerous gauntlet while sorting out suspects right in the ranks of his own department. What makes his plight even dicier is the pyrotechnics-driven flick's "When in doubt, blow it up!" philosophy.

An alternately visceral and cerebral, high body-count crime thriller not to be missed!

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated R for nudity, graphic violence, drug use and pervasive profanity

Running time: 116 minutes

Distributor: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Blu-ray Extras: An Authentic World; Under the Gun; and deleted scenes.

 

To see a trailer for Triple 9, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_yxgGFEBUE

 

To order a copy of Triple 9 on Blu-ray, visit:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01D52PV12/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Race

DVD Review by Kam Williams  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving Biopic Recounts Jesse Owens' Exploits at Berlin Olympics

 

Jesse Owens (Stephan James) is famous for winning four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics staged in Berlin. The in track and field events events in which he competed included the 100 meter dash, the 200 meter dash, the long jump and the 4 x 100 meter relay race.

What makes Owens' feat remarkable is that he had to overcome not only racism at home but the prejudice he encountered in Germany which had embraced Nazi notions about whites being a master race. So, not only did he have to deal with discrimination in the States but prejudice on the part of Adolf Hitler (Adrian Zwicker).

Directed by Stephen Hopkins (Lost in Space), Race is a character-driven biopic which has much more to offer than an account of Jesse's historic assault on the record books. For, in addition to recreating the tension surrounding each of the contests, the picture devotes considerable time to fleshing out the protagonist's personality.

As the film unfolds, we learn about Jesse's humble roots in Cleveland, and that he was the first of his family's ten children to attend college. When he left for Ohio State, he already had a baby (Yvanna-Rose Leblanc) with Ruth Solomon (Shanice Banton), the childhood sweetheart he would eventually wed and remain married to until his death in 1980.

At the university, Jesse forged a close relationship with his track coach, Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis), who also served as something of a surrogate father. And when his confidence was being undermined by bigoted officials on the U.S. Olympic Committee, Snyder decided to pay his own way to accompany his promising protege to the games in Berlin.

There, Jesse was shaken to be greeted with the N-word. He was equally shocked by see signs in stores declaring "No Jews or dogs allowed." Nevertheless, he managed to block out the madness all around him while concentrating on performing in the Olympic stadium to the best of his ability.

Jesse's prevailing over Aryan athletes infuriated Hitler who refused to shake his hand, as was the proper protocol, at least with white gold medal-winners. Despite pressure from the Fuhrer and his henchman Joseph Goebbels (Barnaby Metschurat) to follow suit in the snub, German long jumper Carl "Luz' Long (David Cross) went out of his way to embrace the champion ostracized on account of his skin color. (Postscript: The two remained friends until Carl perished while fighting on the front lines in World War II).

Regrettably, Jesse's reception back home wasn't much better, given how the White House never publicly acknowledged his remarkable achievement. A very inspiring, long overdue tribute to a great patriot and African-American icon.

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG-13 for profanity, mature themes and ethnic slurs

In English and German with subtitles

Running time: 135 minutes

Distributor: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Blu-ray Extras: The Making of Race; Becoming Jesse Owens; and The Owen Sisters.

To see a trailer for Race, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3ZF5b0zu00

 

To order a copy of Race on Blu-ray, visit:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01BTDOSFY/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20