“Mia Madre” Juggling Dreams While Jumping Through Hoops

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The film Mia Madre has its moments, but the bleak story is a matter of taste. A true indie in every sense of the word, the movie becomes a trite look at the inside of movie making through the eyes of a director who’s dealing with her mother’s illness. Admittedly not based on a true story, the subject matter should appeal to those who have found themselves in similar situations with the main character. If you like films that work their magic through dramatic moments and hard to cope with situations, then this little gem will work nicely for you. Read more

“A Bigger Splash” a Sensuous Film that Tantalizes

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Set in the south of Italy on the island of Pantelleria the modern day romance A Bigger Splash has a few twists to its plot that’s nicely handled by the famous cast. The sound track gets a lot of work while the foursome bask in the gorgeous rocky coast of the exquisite island. The storyline does lack some zip and it flounders somewhat, but in the long run this 2 hour movie does work well as a home video or digital download. Read more

“Life, Animated”, a Heartfelt Story of True Love for a Child

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Heartfelt, inspiring and compelling the documentary Life, Animated takes you into the world of Autism in a positive way. Not to be missed, this amazing production involves relationships as you have never experienced unless you are a parent, psychologist, or a member of the medical field directly associated with children with this unusual affliction. It’s so touching and emotional that the film should bring tears of joy from this rare coming-of-age story. Read more

“The Jungle Book”, a High Spirited Family Film on Home Video

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Director Jon Favreau turns family viewing up a notch with a darker version of the 1997 animated The Jungle Book. Now on Blu-ray/DVD the live action with a copious amounts of computer generated images, Favreau takes the classic into the 21st century with realism beyond belief. Adding a lot of action to his film the movie becomes more of a jungle battle than an innocent romp in the trees and vegetation while coming in contact with some comical characters. It’s not the family musical you saw many years ago, but the story stays intact and fun to watch. Read more

“The Phenom”, Losing Mojo in the Majors

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Just in time for the winding down of the major league baseball season, The Phenom comes to Blu-ray/DVD with a drama that’s fit for avid lovers of the sport. The psychological story has a good cast, nice direction, but the script turns an interesting plot into a theatrical two act play. The movie leaves out the guts and glory that most baseball flicks rely on for the magic that puts sports fans in the seats of a dark movie theater. Instead turns into a sob story about a rookie that loses his ability to focus on “the game”. Read more

“Equity”, Women vs. Wall Street

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Review by John M Delia, Jr.

The film Equity Directed by Meera Menon brings movie goers a unique story written by Amy Fox, Sarah Megan Thomas, and Alysia Reiner. It shows a woman’s view of Wall Street and the effects it can have on them. Carefully organized, well written, and presented, the scrupulous film is perfect for the over twenty audience. Menon develops this story with a deep look into the process it takes to have a private company go public and the negative and positive effects on its founders. Read more

In Order of Disappearance: Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold

Nils Dickman (Stellan Skarsgard)
Nils Dickman (Stellan Skarsgard)

A surprisingly enjoyable action flick, In Order of Disappearance unites Fargoesque elements with Dirty Harry street justice, piling up bodies faster than snow off a road plow. Hans Petter Moland’s gritty thriller draws on an everyman protagonist to work his way up the crime tree of dirt-bag criminals and sequentially dispense justice with Old Testament ferocity.

Death of Nils' son
Death of Nils’ son

After some bottom-of-food chain bad guys rig the death of his son, Ingvar, to look like an overdose, mild mannered Nils Dickman (Stellan Skarsgard) initially takes the blame and nearly offs himself with a rifle. But most viewers know better than to expect a protagonist to die so quickly, which is why it’s no surprise when we learn that Ingvar was murdered. And why the ostensibly docile Nils embarks on “digging two graves” for his son’s murder, uprooting the heretofore-cerebral crime paradigm of Scandinavian cinema. Among the mob soldiers Nils dispenses (with the help of his huge snowplow) is the likeable Strike (Game of Thrones Kristofer Hivju). It’s a bit more than a cameo, and there’s a good-guy-bad-guy camaraderie moment that gives the scene a bit of moral balance.

Kristofer Hivju and Stellan Skarsgard
Kristofer Hivju and Stellan Skarsgard

Nils clearing the Norwegian backwater with a giant yellow snowplow becomes an arresting metaphor for his life, removing obstructions in a physically cold, cruel world. And what better obstruction to remove than a crime family bent on expansion? With tongue-in-cheek tombstone solemnity, Nils’ enemies are dispatched and recorded on black screen—a nice, subtle comedic touch. During a visit to Nils’ estranged brother, Egil (Peter Andersson)—his former “wingman”—we learn that in his misspent youth, Nils picked up a few street survival “talents.” It’s a History of Violence moment that underscores Nils’ ability to dispatch goons with such lean efficiency.

Snow plow justice
Snow plow justice

Nils’ nemesis is a young ponytailed crime boss known simply as “the Count” (Pal Sverre Hagen). The second-generation mobster inherited the business from papa, but his hot temper and impatience eventually cause him to underestimate Nils. The Count seems to have his hands full in areas that extend beyond running the family business. A B-story that underscores his “husband/father of the year” persona is the Count’s ongoing fight with his ex-wife (Birgitte Hjort Sorensen) over custody of their son.

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Square pegged into crime boss status, the Count is repeatedly outwitted by Nils’ blue-collar tactics. Outmatched by a rival gang of Serbians, he unwittingly responds to “an insult” with the wrong “message.” Doing an admirable job as the Serbian’s avuncular capo di tutt’i capi is “Papa” (Bruno Ganz), a likeable sort and heavy counter weight to the impulsive Count. The final, shell-casing-littered standoff dovetails the Good, the Bad and the Ugly and is as satisfying as a gulp of ice-cold soda after a bucket of salty popcorn.

“Papa” (Bruno Ganz
“Papa” (Bruno Ganz)

 

“Hands of Stone” A Rock Hard Film

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The movie Hands of Stone follows the life of world champion boxer Roberto Duran. Well-acted by a fine cast, the film plays out much like the movie Ali where the top boxer stunned the world capturing the heavyweight crown. With Duran, the story gets a glazing of white wash, turns bullish and then a bit too sentimental for my taste. That said, I did enjoy the production value and the boxing action that looked very realistic. Read more

“Ratchet & Clank”, Dynamic Heroes Dominate

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Here’s a very good animated film for the kiddies and even teens, especially gamers who have played the PlayStation video game from which the movie was taken. It’s called Ratchet & Clank and gets released on August 23, 2016 in several formats DVD, Blu-ray and Digital HD. They have also bundled the three formats in a one purchase box for those that want to split the fun with youngsters. The story has a good theme about being a hero, but the sci-fi animated violence can get a bit testy for the very young. Read more

“Clown” Chilling to the Bone

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One of the most scary, edgy and terror filled movies I’ve seen this year Clown has been released on DVD and Blu-ray. Most everyone has at least had trepidation about clowns since the sicko thriller TV Mini Series Stephen King’s “It”. The production created many nightmares and probably got a lot of kids parties canceled when moms and dads were frightened by the ugliness of the central character Pennywise. But that wasn’t the most dreadful film involving clowns that hit the small screen. A few years ago “American Horror Story: Freak Show” featured a couple of violent and sadistic clowns that made me cringe to the bone. Read more

“War Dogs”, Making Easy Cash the Hard Way

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Billed as a comedy with drama and based on a true story, War Dogs takes you into the world of selling guns during wartime. The film delves into profit making from the military and the risks the gun sellers take for chances of making millions. While a lot of Hollywood goes into the film, it does happen and it did happen this way, mostly. What adds high entertainment value to the movie comes from the acting by two of America’s better actors, Oscar nominated Jonah Hill and rising star Miles Teller. Read more

“Hell or High Water”, Taking Anger to the Bank

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One of the better dramas this year, Hell or High Water comes from an indie filmmaker and could possibly enter the race for an Oscar, it’s that good. Working on a premise that may be a little over the top makes it a bit dubious however, but most people did like the tempestuous Bonnie and Clyde. Whether you cheer for the two characters in this wild and offbeat film or not, the acting’s so good I’m going back for another look. Read more

“Pete’s Dragon” a Darker Version of the Family Film

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Although it is about Pete and Elliot the dragon, Pete’s Dragon is a far cry from the live action and animated musical that we loved and filled our dreams as children. This Pete’s Dragon has a modern twist that sets even PG viewers on the edge of their seats. From the opening scary car crash involving Pete’s parents, to the hostile way they have to capture Elliot the dragon, the film spans a mystery, adventure and fantasy that both endears and shocks. Read more

“Halt and Catch Fire” Season Two Hits the Streets

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The intense drama Halt and Catch Fire season 2 comes to home video August 9th providing a perspective of 1980’s birth of the internet revolution. Working with some fine actors and very good cinematography for a TV series, the story by Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers takes on a lot of challenging subjects in one ball of string. Using opposing views in the world of PC’s and Gaming the play gets hot and heavy at times leading to a gripping second season ending. Read more

“Suicide Squad” Villains vs Supervillain

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Rivaling the dark comedy superhero movie Deadpool, the wacky Suicide Squad takes off with a blast and it will kickass this weekend. The sometimes hilarious action, adventure, science fiction thriller gets yanked from the DC comic books by super director David Ayer for the huge IMAX screen and other venues. It’s a monster of a film filled with, yup, a monstrous cast and tons of computer graphics to feed the audience targeted with an adrenaline rush. One of the better action releases this year, the film WILL make a ton of money at the box offices worldwide. Read more