Keanu Reeves Reprises Role in Splatterfest Sequel Arriving on DVD

 

John Wick: Chapter 2,  DVD Review, Keanu Reeves, Bridget Moynahan, Laurence Fishburne, The MatrixJohn Wick: Chapter 2

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Keanu Reeves Reprises Role in Splatterfest Sequel Arriving on DVD

When we first met John Wick (Keanu Reeves), he went on a bloody killing spree in the wake of losing the love of his life (Bridget Moynahan). And at the end of that revenge-fueled splatterfest we saw the wounded assassin walk off into the sunset with a puppy he just rescued from the dog pound.

  Picking up soon after the events of the original, Chapter 2 opens with Wick retiring after retrieving his stolen Mustang from a Russian gang. But before he has a chance to settle into a rocking chair, he’s recruited by Santonio D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) to perform one last hit.

The ambitious mobster wants his sister Gianna (Claudia Gerini) knocked off so that he can assume the reins of the powerful Mafia family left to her by their late father. Wick grudgingly agrees to kill her only because Santonio is holding his marker, a blood oath ironically taken in order to leave behind his grisly line of work.

So, he proceeds to Rome where he tracks down Gianna who quickly commits suicide once she realizes the reason for his visit. Nevertheless, her death doesn’t sit well with her horde of henchman, especially her personal bodyguard, Cassian (Common).

Next thing you know, Wick needs to waste wave after wave of minions while on the run through the catacombs. After a miraculous escape, things are no better back in America where the senseless slaughter simply continues.

That is the sum and substance of John Wick: Chapter 2, an unapologetic indulgence in blood lust. This high-body count affair is right in  Keanu Reeves’ wheelhouse, as he seems to excel when called upon to dispatch dozens, if not hundreds, of adversaries in a variety of creative ways, without ever having to exhibit much of an acting range.

The picture reunites Reeves with Laurence Fishburne, his co-star in The Matrix trilogy. Laurence only enjoys a minor role here, however, in favor of Common, a standout who proves to be the protagonist’s worthy adversary in a protracted hand-to-hand showdown.

A twisted Wick continues to burn bright!

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated R for profanity, brief nudity and pervasive violence

In English, italian, Hebrew and Russian with subtitles

Running time: 122 minutes

Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment    

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Deleted scenes; Retro Wick; Training John Wick; WICK-fizzed; Friends, Confidantes: The Keanu/Chad Partnership;As Above, So Below: The Underworld of John Wick; Car Fu Ride-Along; Chamber Deck: Evolution of a Fight Scene; Wick’s Toolbox; Kill Count;”Dog Wick” short; and an audio commentary with Keanu Reeves and director Chad Stahelski.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

To order a copy of John Wick: Chapter 2 on Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit: 

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B06XWWZ955/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

 

 

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Hilarious Caped Crusader Cartoon Spoof Comes to Home Video

 

The LEGO Batman Movie,  DVD Review, Chris McKay, Batman, Robin, Batgirl, superhero, clever, sillyThe LEGO Batman Movie

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Hilarious Caped Crusader Cartoon Spoof Comes to Home Video

Not since the campy TV-sitcom back in the Sixties has Batman been so successfully lampooned. Now, the much-beloved superhero again proves perfect fodder for parody in a madcap, animated adventure with a terribly-short attention span.

More concerned with jokes than plot development, this irreverent spoof is relentless in its rush to find the next punch line. Fortunately, the picture never disappoints in that endeavor, whether the laughs be generated by clever quips, silly sight gags or allusions to earlier incarnations of the enduring franchise.

For example, right before confronting a couple of villains, Batman (Will Arnett) informs Robin (Michael Cera) that, “We’re going to punch these guys so hard that words are going to magically appear out of thin air.” That’s a thinly-veiled reference to the cartoon bubbles (a la “Crack!” and “Pow!”) that would appear on the screen during fist fights on the old television series.

And it’s not just the TV Batman that gets knocked off a pedestal, here. For, every big screen version of The Caped Crusader is fair game in the eyes of Chris McKay, who makes a remarkable, feature film directorial debut with this frenetically-paced farce.

The picture does have a premise, though it does read like a stock Batman storyline. At the point of departure, we learn that The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) is hatching a plan to level Gotham City with the help of a host of infamous supervillains. In turn, Batman enlists the assistance of  Robin (Michael Cera), Batgirl (Rosario Dawson) and his loyal manservant, Alfred (Ralph Fiennes).

However, before the typical tussle between these long-standing archenemies, we’re treated to an emotionally-charged exchange in which The Joker demands Batman finally commit to their adversarial relationship of 78 years by uttering, “I hate you.” When that phrase isn’t forthcoming, The Clown Prince of Crime vindictively responds with “I’m done, and on the way out I’m going to blow up Gotham City.”

The ensuing mix of mirth and mayhem is so mesmerizing, it’s easy to forget you’re watching LEGO figures. More fun than a barrel of monkeys, not that anybody still gets a kick out of watching primates at play.

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated  PG for action and rude humor

Running time: 104 minutes

Distributor: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment Group

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Dark Hoser; Batman Is Just Not That into You; Cooking with Alfred; Movie Sound Effects: How Do They Do That?; The Master: A LEGO Ninjago Short; deleted scenes; Rebrick Contest Winners; film trailers; Lego Life trailer; social promos; director and crew commentary; and six more featurettes.

                     

To order a copy of The LEGO Batman Movie Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit:

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B06W53FHJJ/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

 

 

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David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike Co-Star in True Tale of Forbidden Love

 

A United Kingdom,  DVD Review, David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, 1946, Great Britain, Africa, racial intolerance, Lloyd's of LondonA United Kingdom

DVD Review by Kam Williams

David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike Co-Star in True Tale of Forbidden Love

Upon the untimely death of his father, Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) was crowned the King of Bechuanaland at the tender age of 4. But his Uncle Tshekedi (Vusi Kunene) assumed the reins of power until the heir apparent could complete his education.

While studying law in Great Britain, Seretse fell in love at first sight with Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a lowly clerk at Lloyd’s of London. Their whirlwind romance ignited an international firestorm of controversy because of their color, not their class, differences.

For, he was black and she was white, and this was 1946, a time of strict racial segregation. So, the couple’s scandalous liaison was met with resistance both in England and back of Africa.

Although they found themselves assailed with racial slurs like “slut” and “savage” while out on dates, the hostility only served to intensify their feelings for one another. Meanwhile, Seretse was threatened with the loss of his throne, since Bechuanaland was a protectorate of neighboring South Africa, a white supremacist nation. Nevertheless, he got down on one knee and proposed to Ruth and the two married just a year after they met.

Unfortunately, major impediments were subsequently placed between the exiled young monarch and his governing, and that struggle is the subject of A United Kingdom. Directed by Amma Asante (Belle), the film was shot on location in Botswana, which is what the country has called itself since gaining independence in 1966.

Because the movie telescopes tightly on Ruth and Seretse’s relationship, it’s success or failure is destined to turn on the performances of co-stars David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike. The good news is that they’re very talented thespians capable of disappearing into their roles while generating the requisite chemistry to make their characters’ enduring affair convincing.

The film’s only flaw is that it feels a bit rushed, as if director Asante had a long checklist of touchstones from “Colour Bar” (the 432-page book it’s based on) she was determined to shoehorn into the encyclopedic biopic. Nonetheless, the final product is a praiseworthy production reminiscent of another true tale of racial intolerance.

Can anybody say, “Loving,” African style!

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated PG-13 for sensuality, profanity and ethnic slurs

Running time: 111 minutes

Distributor: Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: The Making of A United Kingdom; Filming in Botswana; The Legacy of Seretse and Ruth; and London Film Festival Opening Night Gala Premiere.

To order a copy of A United Kingdom on Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B06Y4S4VBX/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

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Shades of “Groundhog’s Day” in Adaptation of Young Adult Best Seller

 

Before I Fall,  DVD Review, Kam Williams, Zoey Deutch, Erica Tremblay, bittersweet tale of redemption, Lauren Oliver, Groundhog DayBefore I Fall

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Shades of “Groundhog’s Day” in Adaptation of Young Adult Best Seller

Samantha “Sam” Kingston (Zoey Deutch) was a spoiled-rotten brat the night she perished in a tragic car crash. First of all, she and her little sister Izzy (Erica Tremblay) were lucky enough to be raised in the lap of luxury by a couple of loving parents (Jennifer Beals and Nicholas Lea).

Secondly, the recently-deceased 17 year-old was not only leaving behind a handsome boyfriend in Rob (Kian Lawley), but an ardent admirer in Kent (Logan Miller), a Platonic friend she’d taken for granted since grade school. Sam was also pretty popular at Ridgview High School where she was a member of an exclusive clique along with her three BFFs, Liz (Halston Sage), Elody (Medalion Rahimi) and Ally (Cynthy Wu).

The snobby quartet took delight in teasing classmates like lesbian Anna (Liv Hewson) and reclusive outcast Juliet (Elena Kampouri). So, Sam would think nothing of participating in such mean girl rituals as dumping drinks on Juliet while calling her a “psycho bitch.” 

However, after the accident, she was afforded an unusual opportunity to reconsider her cruel behavior when, instead of proceeding to the hereafter, her spirit miraculously reentered her body. Upon opening her eyes, she realized that it was again dawn on February 12th, and that she was about to relive the same day again.

In fact, Sam’s about to experience February 12th over and over, while learning valuable lessons in tolerance each go-round. Thus unfolds Before I Fall, a bittersweet tale of redemption based on Lauren Oliver’s young adult novel of the same name. 

At first blush, the picture’s premise reads rather reminiscent of the Bill Murray classic Groundhog Day (1993), although this is a drama as opposed to a comedy, and it’s set on February 12th instead of the 2nd. The movie was directed by Ry Russo-Young (Nobody Walks), who puts a fresh enough spin on the familiar theme to make you forget Groundhog Day after 15 minutes.

Kudos aplenty are in order for Zoey Deutch who’s incredibly convincing as Sam in a demanding role which calls for the exhibition of a considerable acting range over the course of the story. Her supporting cast delivers stellar work selling an escapist fantasy which might otherwise fall apart oh so easily.

A deja vu-driven, surrealistic morality play designed to leave you deep in reflection and weeping as you walk up the aisle. 

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated  PG-13 for mature themes, bullying, sexuality, violent images, profanity and underage drinking

Running time: 99 minutes

Distributor: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: None

To order a copy of the Before I Fall Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B06XPS28JJ/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

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Ice Cube and Charlie Day Square-Off in Over-the-Top Comedy

 

Fist Fight,  DVD Review, Three O'Clock High, Ice Cube, Charlie Day, relentlessly-profane rompFist Fight

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Ice Cube and Charlie Day Square-Off in Over-the-Top Comedy

Do you remember how, when you were growing up, if a couple of classmates came to blows on the schoolyard, they would be quickly separated to the suggestion that they settle their differences off campus at the end of the day? That was the point of departure of Three O’Clock High, a 1987 comedy about a bully with a short fuse who challenges a mild-mannered milquetoast to a duel after school.

Ostensibly inspired by that teensploitation classic, Fist Fight is a slight variation on the theme which flips the script by having a couple of teachers squaring-off instead of students. Otherwise, the basic idea remains intact.

The movie co-stars Ice Cube and Charlie Day as Ron Strickland and Andy Campbell, respectively, colleagues at Roosevelt High. Intimidating history teacher Ron cuts a sharp contrast to nerdy English teacher Andy, and much of the humor revolves around their difference in temperament.

The action unfolds on the last day of.school which is when we find seniors running a muck and pulling a variety of outrageous pranks like kicking the spout off a water cooler and rocking the ineffective security guard’s (Kumail Nanjiani) golf cart while he’s still sitting in it. Despite the insanity, the faculty is doing its best to maintain decorum.

Nevertheless, Mr. Campbell’s lesson on why words matter is interrupted by the antics of class clowns. He’s able to handle the disruption far better than Mr. Strickland who proceeds to blow his cork.

The plight thickens when both teachers are summoned to Principal Tyler’s (Dean Norris) office to explain why Ron chopped a disrespectful pupil’s desk in half with an ax. The upshot of the meeting is that Ron loses his job because of Andy, so he challenges him to a fight after school. Consequently, fraidy cat Campbell spends the rest of the afternoon trying to find a way to avoid the confrontation.

Too bad, the ensuing buildup to the big showdown between the adversaries proves to be less entertaining than the promising premise. For, the two share few funny moments following the setup. Luckily, this kitchen sink comedy continues to deliver courtesy of such student stunts as hiring a mariachi band to follow the principal around the halls.

The movie marks the feature film debut of actor-turned-director Richie Keen, who also makes a cameo appearance as a computer store employee. And the support cast includes the scene-stealing Tracy Morgan whose quirky trademark mannerisms are put on full display.

Note, Fist Fight is a relentlessly-profane romp which might have set a record for the use of the F-word. Since the closing tableau sets up the sequel, might I suggest that the next installment cut down on the curses in favor of more jokes.

Good (2 stars)

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

Running time: 91 minutes

Distributor: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment Group

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Deleted scenes; and a Georgia Film Commission featurette.

To order a copy of the  Fist Fight, Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B06Y2GTFQG/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

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Best Picture Nominated WWII Biopic Arriving on DVD

 

Hacksaw Ridge,  DVD Review, by Kam Williams, Andrew Garfield, Pearl Harbor, Seventh-day Adventist, Mel GibsonHacksaw Ridge

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Best Picture Nominated WWII Biopic Arriving on DVD

   

Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) was born in the Blue Ridge Mountains where he was raised as a Seventh-day Adventist. Devoutly religious, he followed his faith’s literal interpretation  of the 10 Commandments, including the 5th’s dictate that “Thou shalt not kill.” So, when he rushed to enlisted in the Army right after the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, he did so as a Conscientious Objector.

But because he was unwilling to touch, let alone carry a weapon, Desmond was teased mercilessly by other members of his platoon. In fact, he was not only beaten to a pulp by a bully (Luke Bracey), but court-martialed for failing to complete the weapons part of basic training.

However, the military tribunal ruled in Desmond’s favor after his World War I veteran father (Hugo Weaving) showed up to testify on his behalf. Still, his fellow G.I.s remained reluctant to embrace a comrade they suspected to be a coward, since they had just been taught by hard-nosed Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn) that a unit was no stronger than its weakest link.

Nevertheless, Desmond was commissioned as a medic with the 307th Infantry with whom he would more than prove his mettle on the island of Okinawa in the bloodiest battle of World War II. For,  he exhibited extraordinary courage over the course of a month spent dodging bullets and bombs to attend to the wounded during the siege of Hacksaw Ridge.

Desmond would save the lives of 75 grateful soldiers, and his selfless exploits would be appreciated by both grateful buddies and the Pentagon. And the heroic medic eventually became the first Conscientious Objector to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

All of the above is recounted in riveting fashion in Hacksaw Ridge, a gripping biopic directed by Mel Gibson. The critically-acclaimed docudrama was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Director and Lead Actor (Andrew Garfield). The action-oriented flick features very graphic battlefield tableaux reminiscent of the gory D-Day reenactments found in Saving Private Ryan (1998).

When not devoting its attention to recreating gruesome war scenes, the flashback flick  focuses on Desmond’s formative years , as well as to his whirlwind romance with Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer), the pretty nurse he fell in love with at first sight and married shortly before shipping out for the Pacific Theater of Operations. The film fittingly brings down the curtain with archival newsreels and stills of the real-life Desmond and Dorothy to ensure there won’t be a dry eye in the house following the closing credits.

A moving portrait of an unorthodox war hero who contributed considerably to the effort without ever wielding a weapon against the enemy. 

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated R for graphic violence, gruesome images and ethnic slurs

Running time: 131 minutes

Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Deleted scenes, Veterans Day greeting from director Mel Gibson; and The Soul of War: Making Hacksaw Ridge documentary.

To order a copy of Hacksaw Ridge on Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit:

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01LTHZVSS/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Source:  GIG News

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Six-Time Nominee Out on DVD

 

Manchester by the Sea,  DVD Review, by Kam Williams, Casey Affleck, C.J. Wilson, Kyle Chandler, Manchester by the Sea

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Six-Time Nominee Out on DVD

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) was having a hard time hanging on to his job as a janitor in Quincy, Massachusetts, when he received word from a family friend (C.J. Wilson) that his big brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler), had just suffered a heart attack after a fall on his fishing boat. Lee immediately rushed to the hospital only to learn that his sibling had just passed away. 

Joe had been raising his son (Lucas Hedges) alone, since his long-estranged wife (Gretchen Mol) had a serious, substance abuse problem. Therefore, it now not only falls upon Lee’s shoulders to inform Patrick about the tragedy, but to serve as the grieving teen’s guardian and role model, in accordance with his brother’s last wishes.

Out of a sense of duty, Lee reluctantly moves back to his hometown, Manchester by the Sea, a place where he’d already experienced more than his share of misfortune. While subsequently trying to control a headstrong, 16 year-old, he finds himself forced to confront his demons when he crosses paths with his contrite ex-wife (Michelle Williams).

Thus unfolds Manchester by the Sea, a character-driven drama written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan. This heartrending portrait of a working-class hero has been nominated for a half-dozen Academy Awards in the Best Picture, Director, Original Script and three acting categories.

Lee is not your typical protagonist, not by a long shot. He’s an uncharismatic underachiever with a checkered past. Yet, by the same token, it is clear that he is determined to do his best by the boy with whose care he’s been entrusted. Trouble is, Lee’s a man of few words who simply doesn’t come equipped with a sophisticated skill set.

Still, Lonergan somehow manages to explore the inscrutable everyman’s psyche in a novel way which not only makes him accessible, but likable. Credit must go to Casey Affleck, too, for his nonpareil  performance in a role where he was often forced to resort to non-verbal communication in myriad situations where words would ostensibly escape Lee.

An emotionally-engaging tale of redemption                         .

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated R for sexuality and pervasive profanity

Running time: 137 minutes

Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Deleted scenes, a conversation with writer/director Kenneth Lonergan; and Emotional Lives: The Making of Manchester by the Sea.

To order a copy of Manchester by the Sea on Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit:

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01LTHZVKG/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Source:  GIG News

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Bittersweet Biopic Revisits Forbidden Romance That Led to Landmark Supreme Court Decision

 

Loving,  DVD Review, by Kam Williams, anti-miscegnation laws, Racial Integrity Act, Virginia, landmark legal caseLoving

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Bittersweet Biopic Revisits Forbidden Romance That Led to Landmark Supreme Court Decision

Mildred Jeter (Ruth Negga) and Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton) committed a crime just by falling in love when they were in the bloom of youth back in 1958. That’s because she was black and he was white, and they were living in Virginia, one of the many Southern states with anti-miscegenation laws still on the books forbidding cohabitation, marriage, procreation or even sexual relations across racial lines.

Nevertheless, Richard was so smitten he proposed and, after Mildred accepted, he purchased a vacant plot of land where he promised to build their dream home. However, when it came to time to wed, they had to travel north to Washington, DC, a city where they could secure a marriage license.

Upon returning to their tiny hometown of Central Point, they were promptly arrested during a nighttime raid staged by policemen tipped off about the recent nuptials. They charged the couple with violating  section 20-58 of Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act, a felony punishable with up to five years in prison.

The Lovings were ultimately convicted, but fled to the District of Columbia rather than serve their sentences, especially since Mildred was expecting their first child by then. What a tragedy it was for them not only to be fugitives of justice, but to be forced to start their family in a strange big city, when they already had a place to live, if it weren’t for state-sanctioned racial intolerance.

Five years later, their plight came to the attention of Bernie Cohen (Nick Kroll) and Phil Hirshkop (Jon Bass) attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The lawyers talked Mildred and Richard into lending their names as plaintiffs in a suit challenging the Constitutionality of Virginia’s longstanding statute prohibiting interracial marriage.

The beleaguered couple agreed, and the appellate process worked its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court which agreed to hear the case. “Tell the judge I love my wife,” Richard implored the ACLU legal team preparing the oral argument.

On June 12, 1967, the Court announced that it had arrived at a unanimous decision written by Chief Justice Earl Warren. He declared that Virginia had violated the Lovings’ rights to both Equal Protection and Due Process as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.

Directed by Jeff Nichols (Mud), Loving carefully chronicles the life and times of an unassuming couple reluctantly thrust into the national limelight by a landmark legal case. The production features an Oscar-nominated performance by Ruth Negga opposite Joel Edgerton. Together, the two generate a quiet, yet convincing screen chemistry portraying Mildred and Richard as modest working-class heroes.

A poignant period piece about a pair of practically-saintly role models well-deserving of their iconic status in the annals of American jurisprudence.

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG-13 for mature themes and ethnic slurs

Running time: 123 minutes

Studio: Big Beach Films

Distributor: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Making Loving; A Loving Ensemble; Loving v. Virginia; Virginia: A Loving Backdrop; and feature commentary with writer/director Jeff Nichols.

To order a copy of Loving on Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01LTHZK2U/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Source:  GIG News

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