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Thor’s Blu-ray/DVD Reviews: Aug. 7

Thor Diakow | posted Tuesday, Aug 7th, 2018

Hit the movie titles for trailer links.

August 7, 2018: Ready Player One, Life of the Party, The Rider, Breaking In, The Good Doctor: Season One.

Ready Player One

SYNOPSIS: In the year 2045, the real world is a harsh place. The only time Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) truly feels alive is when he escapes to the OASIS, an immersive virtual universe where most of humanity spend their days. In the OASIS, you can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone—the only limits are your own imagination. The OASIS was created by the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance), who left his immense fortune and total control of the OASIS to the winner of a three-part contest he designed to find a worthy heir. When Wade conquers the first challenge of the reality-bending treasure hunt, he and his friends—known as the High Five—are hurled into a fantastical universe of discovery and danger to save the OASIS and their world.

“Ready Player One” 4K Ultra HD 3D Blu-ray and Blu-ray Combo Pack contains the following special features:
•Game Changer: Cracking the Code
•Effects for a Brave New World
•Level Up: Sound for the Future
•High Score: Endgame
•Ernie & Tye’s Excellent Adventure
•The ’80’s: You’re The Inspiration
“Ready Player One” Standard Definition DVD contains the following special features:
•The ’80’s: You’re The Inspiration

This one has been out for a few weeks but I had to mention it. Widely considered to be an ‘unfilmable’ book, veteran director Steven Spielberg – and his illustrious crew – takes Ernest Cline’s sci-fi ode to ’80s nostalgia and gives it an incredible and dazzling movie makeover. This one will require multiple viewings to spot all the easter eggs. Loaded with state-of-the-art visual effects, jammed with epic chases and battles, plus containing plenty of vintage Spielberg magic, Ready Player One is modern-day classic.

Life of the Party

SYNOPSIS: When her husband suddenly dumps her, longtime dedicated housewife Deanna (McCarthy) turns regret into reset by going back to college…landing in the same class and school as her daughter, who’s not entirely sold on the idea. Plunging headlong into the campus experience, the increasingly outspoken Deanna—now Dee Rock—embraces freedom, fun and frat boys on her own terms, finding her true self in a senior year no one ever expected.

“Life of the Party” Blu-ray Combo Pack contain the following special features:
•’80s Party
•Mom Sandwich
•Bill Hate-O-Rama
•Gag Reel
•Deleted Scenes
“Life of the Party” Standard Definition DVD contain the following special feature:
•’80s Party

This funny flick may not rewrite the genre playbook but does provide a worthy vehicle for Melissa McCarthy’s endless charms. Life of the Party manages to convey a sweet story with enough cute characters to keep the momentum going. Sure, some of the jokes are a tad stale but this little comedy coasts along nicely thanks to its humour and heart.

The Rider

SYNOPSIS: After a tragic riding accident, young cowboy Brady (Brady Jandreau), once a rising star of the rodeo circuit, is warned that his competition days are over. Back home, Brady finds himself wondering what he has to live for when he can no longer do what gives him a sense of purpose: to ride and compete. In an attempt to regain control of his fate, Brady undertakes a search for new identity and tries to redefine his idea of what it means to be a man in the heartland of America. Based on Brady Jandreau’s real life story, THE RIDER was written and directed by Chloé Zhao. The film was produced by Chloé Zhao, Bert Hamelinck, Sacha Ben Harroche and Mollye Asher; and executive produced by Michael Sagol, Jasper Thomlinson, Yuji Zhao, Dickey Abedon and Daniel Sbrega.

•Deleted scenes
•Q&A with Chloé Zhao, Brady Jandreau, cinematographer Joshua James Richards & editor Alex O’Flinn
•SXSW Q&A with Brady Jandreau

This is an incredibly powerful drama, and one of the year’s best films, that may have passed you by in theatres. The movie is so compelling because it uses untrained actors to bring a fact-based tale to life. The Rider makes for an unforgettable story because it combines gritty realism with classic western tropes infused with a compelling modern parable. This one proves you don’t need Hollywood celebrities to make an amazing film.

Breaking In

SYNOPSIS: Shaun Russell (Union) takes her son and daughter on a weekend getaway to her late father’s secluded, high-tech vacation home in the countryside where the family soon receives an unwelcome surprise from four men who break into the house in search of a hidden safe. After managing to escape, Shaun stops at nothing to turn the tables on the thieves and rescue her two children being held hostage in a house designed with impenetrable security. No trap, no trick and especially no man inside can match a mother with a mission in BREAKING IN. Directed by James McTeigue (V for Vendetta, Sense8), BREAKING IN also stars Billy Burke ( Twilight Series), Aijona Alexus (“13 Reasons Why,” Acrimony) and Seth Carr (Black Panther).

•Alternate Opening –The Gas Station with Commentary by Director James McTeigue and Scriptwriter Ryan Engle.
•One Bad Mother – Gabrielle Union shows that there is no limit to what a threatened mother will do to keep her children safe, and why a woman on a mission should never be underestimated.
•A Filmmaker’s Eye – The crew explores what makes Director James McTeigue’s vision and style uniquely valuable when it comes to creating the right mood for the film.
•A Lesson in Kicking Ass – A behind-the-scenes look at how physically demanding the role of Shaun was for Gabrielle Union, and the steps production took to ensure the most convincing execution of the stunts throughout the film.
•A Hero Evolved – An inspiring account of how leading roles are shifting to embrace the qualities that more diverse actors can bring to the table.
•Deleted and Extended Scenes
•Feature Commentary by Director James McTeigue and Scriptwriter Ryan Engle

Gabrielle Union brings plenty of intensity to this B-thriller. The movie itself, however, is basically an assortment of typical genre clichés. That being said, much of the action is generally well-staged and there is some decent tension which gives the flick a somewhat refreshing throwback vibe.

The Good Doctor: Season One

SYNOPSIS: The Good Doctor centers on Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore), a young surgeon who has been diagnosed with autism & savant syndrome and recruited into the surgical unit of the prestigious San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital. Although the hospital board expresses deep concerns over hiring a surgeon who has been diagnosed with autism, once Shaun impressively diagnoses a young boy, leading to a life-saving surgery, hearts and minds seem to be changed. However, not everyone is convinced…including Shaun’s attending surgeon Dr. Melendez (Nicholas Gonzalez), and it becomes clear that although Shaun may have found his way into the operating room, there are still many challenges he must face to fulfill his dream of saving lives.

DVD Special Features include:
•Deleted Scenes
•Gag reel
•Two Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes

Freddie Highmore shines in this medical drama that takes some interesting twists and turns. The Good Doctor is full of engaging characters and backed by a talented ensemble cast. Some of the writing gets heavy-handed at times as it occasionally veers into the melodramatic. Thankfully, the lead star’s engaging charisma and commitment to his role, along with a strong overall narrative, make this a worthy small screen addition.

Thor’s Blu-ray/DVD Reviews: July 17

Thor Diakow | posted Tuesday, Jul 17th, 2018

Hit the movie titles for trailer links.

July 17, 2018: Rampage, Isle of Dogs, Super Troopers 2, Unsane, Sneaky Pete: Season One, The Good Place: The Complete Second Season.


SYNOPSIS: In 1993, a breakthrough new technology gave scientists a path to treat incurable diseases through genetic editing. In 2016, due to its potential for misuse, the U.S. Intelligence Community designated genetic editing a “Weapon of Mass Destruction and Proliferation.” Johnson stars as primatologist Davis Okoye, a man who keeps people at a distance but shares an unshakeable bond with George, the extraordinarily intelligent, incredibly rare albino silverback gorilla who has been in his care since he rescued the young orphan from poachers. But a rogue genetic experiment gone awry mutates this gentle ape into a raging creature of enormous size. To make matters worse, it’s soon discovered there are other similarly altered animals. As these newly created super creatures tear across North America, destroying everything in their path, Okoye teams with discredited geneticist Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) to secure an antidote, fighting his way through an ever-changing battlefield, not only to halt a global catastrophe but to save the fearsome creature that was once his friend.

“Rampage” 4K Ultra HD, 3D Blu-Ray, Blu-ray Combo Pack contains the following special features:
•Not A Game Anymore – From arcade sensation to movie monster epic, we explore how the Midway video game inspired the filmmakers to create the ultimate disaster film.
•Gag Reel – Hilarious outtakes and mishaps captured during production.
•Deleted Scenes – Deleted scenes that barely missed the final theatrical cut.
•Rampage – Actors in Action: Strap in for a wild ride as Dwayne Johnson, Joe Manganiello and the cast prepare for the film’s demanding stunts and explosive set pieces.
•Trio of Destruction – Follow the innovative design team and the artists at Weta Digital as they bring to life the biggest and baddest monsters for the film’s climactic battle royal.
•Attack on Chicago – Director Brad Peyton reveals the challenges of filming on-location in Chicago and turning digital destruction into a cinematic reality.
Bringing George to Life – Discover the wonder of what it’s like to be a gorilla, as movement coordinator Terry Notary teaches actor Jason Liles how to move, behave and become “George.”
“Rampage” DVD contains:
•Not A Game Anymore – From arcade sensation to movie monster epic, we explore how the Midway video game inspired the filmmakers to create the ultimate disaster film.

This movie actually works, provided you check your brain at the door! Dwayne Johnson provides plenty of charisma, the cast is decent, and the plot examines a rather admirable ‘man & ape’ bond. If you can overlook the clunky dialogue and somewhat cartoonish characters, Rampage benefits from being a worthy creature feature with some strong visual effects.

Isle of Dogs

SYNOPSIS: Visionary director Wes Anderson’s ISLE OF DOGS tells the story of Atari Kobayashi, 12-year-old ward to corrupt Mayor Kobayashi. When all the canine pets of Megasaki City are exiled to vast Trash Island, Atari sets off in search of his bodyguard dog, Spots. With the assistance of his newfound mongrel friends, he begins an epic journey that will decide the fate and future of the entire Prefecture. The film features an all-star cast voicing the dog and human characters including Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, Jeff Goldblum, Scarlett Johansson, and Frances McDormand.

-Isle of Dogs Cast Interviews
-An Ode to Dogs
-Magasaki City and Trash Island
-Weather and Elements
•Image Gallery
•Theatrical Trailer

Wes Anderson makes another triumphant foray into the world of stop-motion animation with this brilliant and beautiful love letter to Japanese culture. Jammed with his patented snappy writing, an immensely talented cast of voices (including many frequent collaborators), and full of visually inventive set pieces, Isle of Dogs is a captivating watch right from the first few frames. Don’t miss the film and then delve into some fairly comprehensive making-of bonus features.

Super Troopers 2

SYNOPSIS: The Broken Lizard comedy team returns with the long-awaited sequel to the cult hit, Super Troopers. Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Erik Stolhanske and Paul Soter return to star alongside Brian Cox and Rob Lowe in this hilarious sequel. When an international border dispute arises between Canada and the United States, the Vermont Highway Patrolmen – Mac, Thorny, Foster, Rabbit and Farva – reunite to help resolve the solution. Full of Canadian references and jokes, Super Troopers 2 will have you laughing out loud.

It only took 17 years and some massive crowd-funding but the world’s worst highway patrol is back! Considering how much time has passed, this comedy managed to maintain the spirit of the original and took the updated story into some wacky directions, with a decidedly Canadian twist. Granted, some of the low-brow humour doesn’t always hit the mark and the plot veers into the ridiculous but a lot of the magic is still there and watch for a trio of scene-stealing Mounties plus a wickedly hilarious little antagonist role from Rob Lowe.


SYNOPSIS: A young woman is involuntarily committed to a mental institution where she confronts her biggest fear in the unique and thrilling film UNSANE. Academy Award® winning director Steven Soderbergh plunges audiences into the suspense and drama of a resilient woman’s fight to reclaim her freedom even as she risks her own sanity. Unsane tells the story of a young woman (Claire Foy) who leaves her hometown to escape a troubled past and begin a new job. But when she is involuntarily committed to a mental institution, she is confronted by her greatest fear but is it real or just her delusion? With seemingly no-one ready to believe her and the authorities unable or unwilling to help, she must confront her fears head on. With twisting perspectives and a shocking narrative, Unsane asks questions about our perception of reality heightened by the film being shot entirely and uniquely on an iPhone 7 Plus.

‘Unsanity’ explores the all-iPhone technique, allowing fans to truly immerse themselves in the heart-pounding, claustrophobic, thought-provoking experience.

Prolific filmmaker Steven Soderbergh once again proves to be the master of his craft with this nifty little thriller. Claire Foy is sensational in this film and its full of delicious twists and turns. The simplistic plot may overstay its welcome slightly by the end and the story goes off the rails a bit but it’s hard to deny the effectiveness of the execution, given it was shot on a phone!

Sneaky Pete: Season One

SYNOPSIS: Contains all 10 episodes on three discs. A con man on the run from a vicious gangster takes cover from his past by assuming the identity of his prison cellmate, Pete. “Reuniting” with Pete’s estranged family, a colourful, dysfunctional group, threatens to drag him into a world just as dangerous as the one he’s trying to escape – and, just maybe, give him a taste of the loving family he’s never had.

Sneaky Pete is a solid show that may have passed you by. It’s a great blend of dark comedy and crime caper with tremendous performances and some very strong writing. A solid start and some effective twists make this one rip-roaring debut season for a highly-promising series.

The Good Place: The Complete Second Season

SYNOPSIS: All 13 episodes from the newly-aired NBC comedy’s sophomore season come to DVD with bonus features including extended episodes and new audio commentaries with cast and crew. From the outrageous mind of Michael Schur, executive producer of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Parks and Recreation, comes the side-splitting second season of the award-winning comedy starring Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars) and Ted Danson (Cheers). After Michael’s disastrous attempt to torture Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani and Jason for eternity goes belly-up, Eleanor and the gang are rebooted and Michael has revised his plan to keep his torture subjects separate. Only now, Michael’s soul is on the line, as his boss, Shawn, won’t allow another attempt!

·Extended Episodes
·Audio Commentaries with Creator Michael Schur, Executive Producer Drew Goddard, Producer Megan Amram and Actor Ted Danson
·Gag Reel
·Visual Effects Reel

If you thought the first season was great, just wait until you get a load of the follow-up! The Good Place‘s second season takes the original central premise and turns it on its head. A multi-talented cast and plenty of effective writing – which navigates comedy and poignancy extremely well – make this season a real winner and one that somehow surpasses the first one.

Thor’s Blu-ray/DVD Reviews: July 10

Thor Diakow | posted Tuesday, Jul 10th, 2018

Hit the movie titles for trailer links.

July 10, 2018: A Quiet Place, Blockers, Mosaic, Nella the Princess Knight: Royal Requests.

A Quiet Place

SYNOPSIS: A true cultural phenomenon that transformed the film-going experience for millions of viewers, A QUIET PLACE is a taut and original thriller that follows a family who must navigate their lives in silence to avoid mysterious creatures that hunt by sound. Knowing that even the slightest whisper or footstep can bring death, Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and Lee (John Krasinski) are determined to find a way to protect their children at all costs while they desperately search for a way to fight back

-Feature film in high definition
-Bonus Content:
Creating the Quiet – Behind the Scenes of A QUIET PLACE
The Sound of Darkness – Editing Sound for A QUIET PLACE
A Reason for Silence – The Visual Effects of A QUIET PLACE
-Feature film in standard definition

John Krasinski proves to be a directing FORCE in this masterful blend of science-fiction, horror, and sheer silence! A Quiet Place is pure cinema that takes a relatively simple premise and gives it a much-appreciated (and needed) shot in the arm. Relying on striking visuals, stirring performances, and pitch perfect tension-building, this thriller is certainly one of the strongest to come along in years. DO NOT MISS IT.


SYNOPSIS: Hysterical and over-the-top parental trio John Cena (Trainwreck, Sisters), Leslie Mann (The Other Woman, This Is 40) and Ike Barinholtz (Neighbors, Suicide Squad) will do anything to foil their daughters’ prom night sex pact. Making her directorial debut, Kay Cannon (writer of the Pitch Perfect series), along with the producers of Neighbors and This Is the End, bring laugh-out-loud moments in the outrageous comedy BLOCKERS. When three parents (Cena, Mann and Barinholtz) stumble upon their daughters’ pact to lose their virginity at prom, they launch a covert one-night operation to stop the teens from sealing the deal. BLOCKERS also features teenage newcomers led by rising actress, Kathryn Newton (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Big Little Lies), Geraldine Viswanathan (EMO The Muscial), Gideon Adlon (“American Crime,” “Girl Meets World”), Graham Phillips (“Riverdale,” “The Good Wife”), Miles Robbins (“Mozart in the Jungle”) and Jimmy Bellinger (“The Middle”). Also joining in on the fun are comedic supporting cast members Gary Cole (“Veep,” Office Space), Gina Gershon (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”), Hannibal Buress (“Broad City,” Neighbors 2), Colton Dunn (“Key and Peele,” “Superstore”) and June Diane Raphael (“Grace and Frankie,” “New Girl”).

•Deleted Scenes
•Gag Reel – The entire cast contributes to these on-set flubs.
•Line-O-Rama – The laughs continue after the take!•Rescue Mission – Being a parent isn’t easy, as Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, and John Cena make abundantly clear. Hear them and director Kay Cannon discuss parental mistakes and lessons learned. They even top it off with a good old-fashioned car explosion!
•Prom Night – Filmmakers and cast discuss how they achieved the perfect prom look and also share some of their own personal prom stories.
•The History of Sex with Ike Barinholtz – Ike Barinholtz explains the origins of human sexuality and its evolution through time.
•John Cena’s Prom Survival Kit for Parents – John Cena shows off a survival kit filled with items that will help parents survive the most stressful time of year – prom season!
•Chug! Chug! Chug! – The film introduced the world to the concept of “butt chugging.” Hear cast, crew, and butt-chugger John Cena discuss how they handled this standout scene.
•Puke-a-Palooza – One memorable scene involves copious amounts of projectile vomit. See what cast, filmmakers, and crew went through to make sure the puke was as authentic as possible.

The teen sex comedy genre gets a refreshing dose of wit thanks to a snappy script and some delightful performances. Blockers wisely eschews conventional tropes, in favour of some gender-reversal gags, by bringing plenty of modern sensibilities to the comedy world.


SYNOPSIS: From the Oscar® and Emmy® award-winning director and executive producer Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich, Cinemax’s The Knick), HBO’s groundbreaking six-part limited series Mosaic arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on July 10, 2018. Starring Oscar®-nominee Sharon Stone (Casino), along with Garrett Hedlund (Mudbound), Beau Bridges (The Fabulous Baker Boys), Paul Reubens (Pee-wee’s Big Adventure) and more, the Mosaic Blu-ray and DVD comes with a two-part featurette, “Heart of Homicide.” A twisting tale of passion, intrigue and deception, set against the backdrop of a mountain resort town, Mosaic follows popular children’s book author and illustrator Olivia Lake (Sharon Stone), whose literary success makes her a local celebrity in the tight-knit community.  When Olivia disappears on New Year’s Eve, leaving behind a blood-soaked studio, the town’s suspicions turn to the two new men in her life: handsome, young aspiring graphic artist Joel Hurley (Garrett Hedlund) and charming stranger Eric Neill (Frederick Weller).  The four-year investigation that follows leaves local law enforcement lead by detective Nate Henry (Devin Ratray) and Eric’s sister Petra (Jennifer Ferrin), to unravel the mystery in this captivating series that explores the psychological underpinnings of love and murder in a small town.

Veteran storyteller Steven Soderbergh once again proves to me a master of his craft with this tightly-wound murder-mystery drama. Mosaic creates a remarkable story thanks to a taut and timely script mixed with commanding acting. Technically, the limited series is always engaging thanks to tight editing and the kind of beautiful production design we’ve come to expect from Soderbergh and his collaborators.

Nella the Princess Knight: Royal Requests

SYNOPSIS: Gallop into 8 royally awesome quests…with Nella and her best friends! Together, they’ll help Clod discover his true talent, teach Smelgly the dragon a lesson in friendship, save the town from troublemaking Impkins, and more! Plus, join a quest to track down the rare Bafflin!

This is a great collection of episodes for any young girl or boy in the family to enjoy in a pretty handy little DVD package. The animation in Nella is usually quite vibrant and the visual world created always brims with imagination. Finding quality programming for the little ones can be tricky these days and this series always conveys positive messaging with plenty of takeaway lessons for kids with just enough narrative magic to spare.

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