Tag Archives: Oscar

Jack Reacher: Taking it back to the 80’s

Tom Cruise is JACK REACHER. Courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions

Tom Cruise is JACK REACHER. Courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions


Remember the good-old days when 80’s action movies were a barrel of fun and laughs? There were no concerns with winning awards or receiving critical acclaim. Instead, entertainment was the highest priority as is the case with Tom Cruise’s latest investigative action film, Jack Reacher.

Cruise plays a funny, smart-mouthed ex-army cop who comes out of hiding to track down a mass murderer.

Jack Reacher 4All of the 80’s clichés have been thoughtfully checked off by director Christopher McQuarrie (The Way of the Gun), who adapted Lee Child’s book, “One Shot”. There’s a wise-cracking detective, a sexy woman, clashing of personalities, a foreign bad guy with a heavy accent, and buckets of action. McQuarrie also was kind enough to keep any gore out of the movie’s action, so those with weak stomachs won’t have to bring their trusty barf bucket.

Jack Reacher 7The recently divorced Tom Cruise gives us nothing we haven’t seen before. Truth is, I love that character and so do you (don’t deny it). The person who deals out the best performance is Joseph Sikora, who made the biggest impact with less than five minutes of screen time.

JACK REACHERFive-time Academy Award nominated cinematographer Caleb Deschanel does an amazing job of lighting every scene to complement McQuarrie’s fantastic shooting style. There’s also some excellent audio design with the sound of firearms having incredible lifelike impact.

Jack Reacher 3Bottom Line: If you enjoy the older action flicks as much as I do, you’ll have a blast with this one.

Grade B-

Runtime: 130 minutes
IMAX: No
3D: No


Finding Nemo: Blu Ray Review

Pick up your copy of Finding Nemo on Blu Ray 3D December 4, 2012. Courtesy of DisneyPixar

Pick up your copy of Finding Nemo on Blu Ray 3D December 4, 2012. Courtesy of DisneyPixar


The story of an overprotective father’s desperate search for his lost son captured audiences worldwide like few films ever have. Unhindered perfection is the best way to describe what DisneyPixar produced in 2003 with Finding Nemo. Nine years after grossing over $900 million worldwide in theatres and Oscar Award acclaim, Nemo and Co. received the 3D treatment and is now available on Blu Ray.

Finding Nemo 1For those few of you who haven’t seen the movie, Finding Nemo is the story of a father and son clown fish that are quickly separated and spend the rest of the movie engaging the help of a variety of quirky sea creatures as they attempt to find their way back to one another.

It should go without saying, but for that sole individual who has yet to embark on this incredible journey, this movie is inspiringly original, and features some of the best voice work to date.

Finding Nemo 3Albert Brooks and Ellen Degeneres’ performances are sublime. Degeneres’ portrayal of the memory addled Dori is absolutely hilarious with just the right amount of emotion to provide an unforgettable character.

The all new Blu Ray release is fully loaded to future proof you (from a technology standpoint). Included are 3D and 2D Blu Ray discs, a DVD copy and a Digital Copy, ensuring that you can enjoy the film anywhere. The image quality is great, only topped by the immersive and dynamic audio design/mastering. Finding Nemo 4If you have the equipment to watch the movie in 3D, you’ll definitely enjoy the added depth the third dimension adds to this deep sea adventure. If you don’t, the 2D experience is no slouch, delivering a crisp, clean image.

There are a lot of special features to go through, including:

• Cine-Explore

Finding Nemo: A Filmmakers’ Roundtable

• Reinventing the Submarine Voyage

• A Lesson in Flashbacks

• Deleted Scene

• Knick Knack

• Trailers and Sneak Peeks

• Art Review

• Making Nemo

• Exploring the Reef

• Studio Tour

• Old School

• Deleted Scenes

• Outtakes

• Publicity Pieces

• Mr. Ray’s Encyclopedia

• Aquariums

Most of these features combine comedy, educational elements and a good deal of insight into the making of the blockbuster film. My only complaint would be with the lack of a “play all” option, as some of the features are a concise 10 seconds long, but take almost 30 seconds to load. Other than that, fans will have fun going behind the scenes with the cast and crew.

Finding Nemo 2Bottom Line: A must own DisneyPixar adventure that you’ll want to dive into time and time again.

Movie Grade A+
Blu Ray Grade A

Runtime: 100 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1


Anna Karenina: Never-ending drama

Keira Knightley and Aaron Taylor-Johnson star in Anna Karenina. Courtesy of Alliance Films


Leo Tolstoy’s first official novel (according to Tolstoy), Anna Karenina, is regarded as the greatest novel of all time (2007 “The Top Ten in Time”). In its thirteenth film adaptation, director Joe Wright gives the story a staged theatrical spin. However, all the glamorous theatrics cannot spark life into this endless melodrama.

Anna is an upper class socialite in 19th century Russia whose affair with an affluent Count defames her among society’s highest ranks and throws her life into disrepute.

Whether it was the director’s or the writer’s idea to have the movie’s scenes transition from stage to the cinematic world – It just doesn’t work. It acts purely to bring the audience out of the fantasy world they are attempting to draw us into.

The story itself is a drawn out soap opera that seldom features a thought provoking moment outside of the infidelity and flashy wardrobes and sets.

The cast makes due with what they are given. No performances stand out or are even worth mentioning. It all felt very… adequate.

This is the first Joe Wright film I did not enjoy. In fact, I downright detested it. Unlike past treasures of his, such as Pride and Prejudice and Atonement (both period pieces), this film fails on every count outside of costume design.

Bottom Line: Unless you are a diehard fan of the novel, stay miles away from this heap of pretentious babble.

Grade D+

Runtime: 130 minutes
IMAX: No
3D: No


Lincoln: Has Oscar written all over it

Daniel Day-Lewis stars in Steven Spielberg’s latest film, Lincoln. Courtesy of Disney Pictures


With the USA battling through election pangs this year, it’s fitting that we take a look back to what a great president like “Honest” Abraham Lincoln can do for their country. In Steven Spielberg’s latest historical epic, we follow Abe as he fiercely battles the confederates and most of the nation to rid the United States of Slavery.

Daniel Day-Lewis is absolutely brilliant as the 16th president. His performance is packed with a special blend of both subtlety and power – The kind of which only great actors can deliver. The supporting cast keeps close to Lewis’ charisma, with Sally Field leading the charge.

Spielberg has nothing left to prove in his career, yet shows no complacency in his direction of Tony Kushner’s excellent adapted screenplay. There is a constant tension throughout the film that is perfectly broken with rich comedic relief from the statuesque president himself.

As far as cinematography is concerned, this is some of the best the Hollywood has offered this year.

My only minute criticism is toward the sheer quantity of names being thrown at you. It can lead to confusion when you’re trying to decipher whom the characters are referring to scene after scene.

Again, that is just a tiny blemish in this phenomenal film that will light up the Academy ballots come 2014.

Bottom Line: Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis are a winning combination in this must see taste of American history.

Grade A

Runtime: 149 minutes
IMAX: No
3D: No


Wreck-It-Ralph: Smashes its way to your heart

John C. Reiley and Sarah Silverman star in the video game bonanza, Wreck-It-Ralph. Courtesy of Disney Pictures


Who remembers the original gaming consoles like ColecoVision, Atari, Nintendo, Sega Master System, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, etc…? For many boys, and a fair number of girls, video games and the characters we battled were a vital source of our entertainment during childhood. Reminiscent of Toy Story, Disney Animation’s latest feature, Wreck-It Ralph, brings an old fantasy to life: What happens to the video game characters when we aren’t playing with them?

Wreck-It Ralph tells the story of a gigantic video game baddy who tires of his thankless existence and ventures off into other games to find his heroic moment.

Let’s make something clear right away, this movie will be a hit. The incredible story will push all the right buttons and keep you locked in for the journey. Writers Jennifer Lee and Phil Johnston manage a near flawless story arch, with intricate twists and lovable characters. The only downside to their script is the lack of humor. There are a decent amount of jokes, but also a lot of missed opportunities and jokes that fell flat.

Casting was solid in this film. John C. Reilly (Ralph) and Sarah Silverman (Vanellope von Schweetz) are great together, as is the rest of the cast. The benefit of the actors recording their dialogue together, as opposed to the norm of doing them individually really shows.

You’ll definitely want to pay extra for the 3D option that will be sure to take you on an immersive roller coaster ride.

Bottom Line: Ralph and Vanellope’s story will touch your heart, while the pedal-to-the-metal action will rock your world.

Grade A-

Runtime: 93 minutes
IMAX: No
3D: Yes


Chimpanzee: Blu Ray Review

Chimpanzee is available in stores on August 21, 2012. Courtesy of DisneyNature


As our genetic ancestors, chimpanzees give humans a glimpse into our extremely distant past. In DisneyNature’s documentary, Chimpanzee, we follow a group of chimps living in the forests of Africa as they try to keep their home safe from an invading clan of rival chimpanzees (Remind you of anyone you know?). Possibly the most intriguing aspect of this film is the story of baby Oscar and the unlikely relationship he forms with the alpha male of his group, Freddy.

This beautifully shot documentary delivers a powerful story of both spirit and family. The cinematography is absolutely stunning, as is the in-depth camera work the crew managed to achieve in order to bring us intimately close to this group of playful primates.

Directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield managed to show the darker side of the animal’s lives, but successfully cut everything graphic and potentially disturbing out for those younger and ever so sensitive viewers. With the assistance of Tim Allen’s (Toy Story, The Santa Clause) playful narration, younger audience members will be thoroughly engaged in this astonishing world of survival.

DisneyNature has included a fantastic array of special features for the Blu Ray + DVD release. Every minute of the On Location: Making Of Chimpanzee featurette is a must watch. It chronicles the pain-staking efforts the crew went through to deliver this astonishing footage. Also included is “Rise” Music Video By McClain Sisters, Behind The Scenes Of “Rise”, See Chimpanzee, Save Chimpanzee, Disney’s Friends For Change, and Disney’s Conservation Legacy.

Bottom Line: Whether you live alone or have a large family, everyone will be captivated by this heartfelt documentary and its phenomenal cinematography.

Movie Grade A
Blu Ray Grade A

Runtime: 78 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Here are some fun activities for you to download and print for your little ones to enjoy:

CHIMPANZEE Activites

 


Monsieur Lazhar: Canadian filmmaking at its finest

Oscar nominated Monsieur Lazhar is available to own on August 14, 2012. Courtesy of eOne Media


Canada has produced some of Hollywood’s finest actors over the last half century. Canadian director Philippe Falardeau’s Oscar nominated film, Monsieur Lazhar, shows that we can produce high quality films as well.

After suffering a tragic loss at an elementary school in Montreal, Bachir Lazhar takes on the unwanted job of substitute teacher to a class dealing with uninvited grief.

It’s an absolute delight to review a film so original, thought provoking and well scripted after being bombarded with tired, unoriginal ideas for the past few months. Philippe Falardeau adapted Évelyne de la Chenelière’s one character play, Bashir Lazhar to perfection. As a writer and director, he was unafraid to look at real world issues and make valid social commentary on the state of the current education regulations.

On top of all the accolades from the production, you’ll find equal brilliance from the cast. Mohamed Fellag and Sophie Nélisse both deliver captivating performances, showcasing their ability to produce every ounce of emotional nuance demanded by their characters.

This DVD presents the film beautifully from both an audio and visual standpoint. Unfortunately, being a French film has limited the special features to only those who understand the language. When you consider the high quality of the movie, it’s tragic that only French speaking audiences will be able to dive deeper into the making of it.

Bottom Line: Even with the lack of special features, this movie is still well worth owning on DVD just for the incredible viewing experience of the film itself.

Movie Grade A
Blu Ray Grade B

Runtime: 95 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1


The Grey: Blu Ray review

Liam Neeson battles the cold wilderness in The Grey. Courtesy of eOne Films


Liam Neeson has proven to be quite the box office draw in the last few years. In fact, movies he has a bit part in will feature him prominently in the trailer (Battleship). It is true however, that he has chosen some solid parts and delivered performances to warrant this attention. The Grey proves to be one more stepping stone to greater acclaim for Mr. Neeson.

The Grey tells the story of a plane filled with rough lumber workers crashing into a snow-ridden wilderness with only a handful of survivors left to fight the harsh conditions and a unique pack of territorial wolves.

What makes this an incredible film is the development of the misfit characters who feel remarkably real thanks to fantastic performances from its cast, including Liam Neeson, Dallas Roberts, Frank Grillo and Dermot Mulroney.

Joe Carnahan with Ian Mackenzie wrote the screenplay wielding an unforgiving world and crafted the characters credible backgrounds, making this more than your basic survival movie. Carnahan’s direction adds an immense level of tension and suspense, which had me propped up on the edge of my seat, even during my second viewing.

For the home release, the audio and video quality has its ups and downs. The audio is very immersive, but the video featured obvious added grain, which was distracting at first. Once you get past it, you tend to ignore its intrusion.

The special feature set isn’t bountiful and features some poor additions. The six deleted scenes are interesting, while two of the three featurettes felt more like advertisements than a means to deliver more insight into the making of the movie. There are also Clips, the kind you see when an actor is being interviewed about the movie they’re starring in, and horribly constructed Interviews with the cast and director. The Audio Commentary features the director and editors providing insights on the process of making the movie while they sip on scotch.

Not a bad way to enjoy this amazing movie.

Bottom Line: The main feature is worth every penny, but don’t expect too much from the extras.

Movie Grade A+
Blu Ray/DVD Grade B

Runtime: 117 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1


Chimpanzee: A swinging good time

Tim Allen narrates DisneyNature's latest documentary, Chimpanzee. Courtesy of Disney Nature


Seeing animals in a zoo is nothing like watching them in their natural habitat. Chimpanzees, while playful, are also territorial beings much like we humans are. This similarity paired with countless others makes DisneyNature’s latest documentary, Chimpanzee, simply intriguing.

This documentary follows a group of chimps (with which we share the most DNA) living in the forests of Africa as they try to keep their home safe from an invading clan of rival chimpanzees. Possibly the most intriguing aspect of this film is the story of baby Oscar and the unlikely relationship he forms with the alpha male of his group, Freddy.

This beautifully shot documentary delivers a powerful story of both spirit and family. The cinematography is absolutely stunning, as is the in-depth camera work the crew managed to achieve in order to bring us intimately close to our distant genetic ancestors.

What really brings the entire production together is Tim Allen’s (Toy Story, <emThe Santa Clause) narration. The man who famously voiced Buzz Lightyear provides humour while simultaneously giving every moment the perfect emotional tone. He even throws in a hint of Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor for good measure.

Directors , Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield who also directed DisneyNature’s Earth together, manage to give us a great deal of insight into the chimpanzees world. They even managed to show the darker side of the animal’s lives, but successfully cut everything graphic and disturbing out for younger and sensitive viewers.

To top it off there is a bonus making-of montage, so make sure to stay put when the credits start to roll.

Bottom Line: This is one of the best documentaries Disney has released to date. Don’t miss it!

Grade A+

Runtime: 78 minutes
IMAX: No
3D: No


War Horse: A brilliant film wrapped in poor packaging

Steven Spielberg's latest epic, War Horse. Courtesy of Disney Pictures


There are few directors in the history of cinema who have crafted such a vast array of classic films as the legendary Steven Spielberg. His latest Oscar nominated epic War Horse proves the magic of movie making still flows powerfully in Spielberg’s veins.

War Horse, based on Michael Morpurgo’s novel, takes us on a journey with Joey, the stallion who touches the lives of everyone he meets and his harrowing journey through World War I.

This is far more than a war film depicting good versus evil. Both sides are examined, which gives this movie depth. Every aspect of this film is of the highest caliber. The acting is superb from every member of the vast cast, including Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, Peter Mullan, Niels Arestrup, and new comer Celine Buckens.

While none of the animals were harmed in the filming process, the movie does depict animal cruelty and there are scenes of horses suffering. A word of warning: if you are an animal lover (as I am), these scenes can be very difficult to watch.

Unfortunately, this combo pack comes in a large DVD style case, instead of the compact Blu Ray case. Since most people will be purchasing the movie for their Blu Ray collection, it makes absolutely no sense to package and promote an inferior product.

The feature set is on the light side for this DVD/Blu Ray combo release, with only two featurettes to enjoy. War Horse: The Journey Home sits you down in a roundtable discussion with the cast, writer, cinematographer, set designer, costume designer, editor and the one and only Spielberg himself. The second is An Extra’s Point Of View – a brief look into the hundreds of extras and what they endured to bring this story to the big screen.

Bottom Line: While the hardware is lacking, the powerful film within is worth every penny.

Release Date: April 3, 2012

Movie Grade: A
Blu Ray/DVD Grade: C

Runtime: 146 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1