BLU-RAY REVIEW: HOUSESITTER

Housesitter is a film that shares a few things in common with Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Both star Steve Martin playing a character where he has to deceive some people and both are directed by Frank Oz. Housesitter was never a film that was going to win any awards but it is ultimately a fun and forgettable little lightweight comedy.

The story goes as follows: Newton Davis (Martin) is an architect working away in a hum-drum job. He builds his dream house in his idyllic hometown and proposes to his childhood sweetheart, Becky (Dana Delany.) Things are looking pretty sweet until Becky rejects Newton’s proposal.

Three months later Newton is still reeling from the rejection. But he finds solace in the arms of a quick-thinking waitress named Gwen Phillips (an effervescent Goldie Hawn.) Gwen is a compulsive liar. She initially tells Newton that she’s Hungarian. But she’s just a free spirit who enjoys reinventing herself and living new lives. The pair have a one night stand but Newton leaves before the morning arrives.

This film requires a huge suspension of disbelief with respect to what happens next. Gwen has a napkin containing a drawing of Newton’s dream house and decides that this is enough to jack in her waitressing job and set up house in the vacant one that Newton built (when she doesn’t even know the exact address.) In Gwen’s first hour in town (after finding “the house”) she sets up accounts in Newton’s name and tells everyone (including his ex and his parents) that she is Newton’s wife. This is the first of a web of lies that become more and more convoluted and complicated.

When Newton learns about what happens he isn’t that mad because he views the situation as an opportunity to get back together with his ex-girlfriend. Newton’s ex becomes jealous of Gwen and Newton’s love and marriage even though their wedded bliss is a sham. Gwen may be a liar but she at least improves Newton’s life for the better- by reuniting him with his father, helping him win a promotion at work, etc. But is it love?

This film basically sees Steve Martin playing the same character he always plays- the over-the-top anxious/serious guy. He seems a tad too old for this role. Goldie Hawn is also the same age as Martin was at the time (46) but she is better-preserved and more believable in her role. Hawn is the real star here and she carries this film as the attractive and sensuous eye candy as well as playing a ditzy woman on the surface but quite a calculating and well-meaning liar as you dig a little deeper.

Housesitter is a zany little comedy caper that could do with a few more laughs. It has some pleasing moments and it’s an easy watch but it’s not an excellent movie by any stretch of the imagination. This outrageous and over-the-top comedy is an enjoyable little piece of escapism but don’t expect it to stay with you beyond the closing credits.

Originally published on 19 March 2017 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/whole-truth-dvd-review/

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BLU-RAY REVIEW: THE WHOLE TRUTH

 

The Whole Truth is a courtroom drama and thriller that spends its entire runtime getting to the truth of a matter. The film is one that – for the most part – keeps the audience guessing in much the same way as Doubt did. This ultimately makes for a story that is not a bad one to watch, even if there are areas needing improvement and the ending is a tad predictable.

Keanu Reeves stars as a hard-drinking, defence lawyer named Richard Ramsey. He also narrates the story but his delivery is so detached and flat and the content adds so little to the film that for the most part it seems like these are obtrusive elements are like a fly that you’d love to swat away. Reeves’ performance is also rather uneven and unconvincing as he attempts to play a guy trying to defend an open-and-shut case on behalf of a family friend.

A wealthy personal injury lawyer named Boone Lassiter (Jim Belushi in a rare dramatic role) is found dead. He was stabbed and has a knife protruding from his chest. His son Mike (a poker-faced, Gabriel Basso) kneels above his estranged, old man’s body and mutters, “Should have done this a long time ago.” The police take this as a confession and it is Ramsey’s job to try to defend the boy and possibly get him acquitted of murder.

The main problem is that Mike won’t talk, not even to his lawyer. So Ramsey adopts a strategy of making it look like the prosecution is winning the case until some extra, crucial pieces of information are revealed. But are some of these red herrings that have been planted or are they the actual truth?

Boone is painted as a philanderer and a tyrant who assaulted his wife (a troubled, Renée Zellweger). The information is revealed via a series of flashbacks with director, Courtney Hunt (Frozen River) attempting to keep the audience on their toes until the very end.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Concussion) also appears in this film. She plays Janelle and is brought in as a young, eager-to-prove herself co-counsel to assist Ramsey. Mbatha-Raw’s role is a largely thankless one. Janelle attempts to suss out the truth and discovers that there could be more to this story than meets the eye. The only thing that seems certain here is that there are many shades of grey and at least a few people are telling secrets and lies.

The Whole Truth is a drab-looking film. It’s shot mostly in-doors in the grey courtroom and is rather dull in depicting the events leading up to it so it’s really an unnecessary one to view on Blu-ray. It also tries to weave together a bunch of different subplots while forcing the audience to question just who Boone’s killer was and what was their motive. For a straight-to-video film it certainly has its movements but you also get the sense that with a few adjustments it could have been so much better.

Originally published on 8 March 2017 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/whole-truth-dvd-review/

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BLU-RAY REVIEW: F IS FOR FAMILY

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The letter “f” is at the beginning of a few different words. There’s the animated Netflix series, F Is For Family. There’s also “fail,” “f**ed,” “flimsy” and “forgettable.” It is easy to sit back and say that the aforementioned series about a dysfunctional family lead by a beer-swilling boob that works in a boring job is unoriginal insofar as that description could be used to describe numerous TV shows (Married With Children and The Simpsons are just two that immediately spring to mind.) F Is For Family is not a perfect show but what it does do well is that it is honest and offers no apologies, if it wants to use crude animations, characters swearing and making jokes that were acceptable in the seventies but are deemed racist today then it will take you there for better or worse and whether you want to or not.

The series is created by comedian Bill Burr and Michael Price (The Simpsons.) It should come as no surprise that the series obviously draws inspiration from both of its creators. For Burr it is in the long and angry rants that the Korean War-veteran father, Frank Murphy regularly delivers (a character that is also voiced by Burr.) There are also plenty of one-liner jokes that are quite obviously ripped off of The Simpsons because as South Park once declared, “The Simpsons already did it.”

F Is For Family stars the Murphy family. There is the father Frank, a disgruntled former baggage handler who has recently been promoted to middle manager at Mohican Airlines. There is his long-suffering wife (Laura Dern,) a woman who aspires to be more than just a housewife and a lady that voluntarily sells plast-a-ware (a take on Tupperware) to people. Kevin Murphy (Justin Long) is like a grown-up Bart Simpson in that he’s an underachiever and proud of it. His younger brother, Bill (Haley Reinhart) is a pathetic little wimp and wallflower and a kid who is easily manipulated and taken advantage of by the youngest Murphy, Maureen (Debi Derryberry.)

This show is a serialised one so we follow the storylines through the six episodes of the first series. Frank begins by trying to outdo his rich and handsome next-door neighbour by purchasing a colour TV that he cannot afford. Frank is not an overly likeable character, especially when he demands a hot meal and peace and quiet from his wife and kids. He also undermines his wife’s chance at a job and he is a terrible parent. Frank invents “Summer in Alaska” in a bid to get his children to go to bed in the afternoon and he offers “helpful” advice like, “Be nice to your sister. Someday you’ll be sleeping on her couch after your first divorce!”

F Is For Family has its moments but it could do with some more jokes. It could also resist the urge to resort to stereotypes and perhaps remove some characters altogether (the family’s German neighbour for instance, is a presumed Nazi but is actually a Holocaust survivor and these jokes often leave a bad taste in your mouth.) F Is For Family is a parody of a dysfunctional family set in the 1970s and is inspired in part by Burr’s childhood. It uses dark humour, basic animations and some distasteful jokes in order to make a point. While this can be rather enjoyable at times, at other moments it feels like yet another dysfunctional family in a sitcom running through the same old jokes on repeat.

Originally published on 28 December 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/f-is-for-family-dvd-review/

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BLU-RAY REVIEW: SING STREET

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Sing Street is a feel-good musical about the in-between days found nestled between childhood and adulthood. The film is an optimistic one set in Dublin in the 1980s. It was a halcyon time in the post-punk era where a kid could start a band by picking up an instrument and people across the world were falling in love with and saying they wanted their MTV! much like this film- it was a colourful time indeed.

This story is a semi-autobiographical one by writer and director, John Carney. The latter is no stranger to the world of music as he was formerly a member of Glen Hansard’s group, The Frames and the pair had a hit film in 2006 with Once. Carney is almost like an Irish Cameron Crowe here because Sing Street certainly has some things in common with “Almost Famous” even if the protagonist in this film is an aspiring musician rather than a rock journalist.

Ferdia Walsh-Peelo stars as Conor, an idealistic dreamer and sensitive, arty kid. Conor’s parents are suffering from money problems and the disintegration of their marriage. To save money, Conor is moved from his elite private school to a Christian Brothers one. This move means that Conor is sometimes subjected to abuse and taunts by the local bully and a mean-spirited teacher/brother.

Conor meets the gorgeous, aspiring model Raphina (Lucy Boynton) but he realises she is more worldlier than he is and that she is also out of his league. In order to impress the girl Conor decides he will form a band with a ragtag group of misfits he has befriended at school. Conor’s brother, Brendan (Jack Reynor) is a stoner and music fan who serves as his brother’s musical mentor much like Zooey Deschanel was when she coached her on-screen brother William in Almost Famous. The soundtrack is also excellent with the likes of The Cure, Hall & Oates and A-HA featuring quite prominently.

The band make big strides writing their own songs and producing their own music videos. Their sound is a kind of teen angst-fuelled pop one that is influenced by the music and looks of the time including new wave and the romantics. The young actors all put in excellent performances in Sing Street with Conor quite often resembling a young Robert Smith of The Cure fame. Boynton and Walsh-Peelo also share a noteworthy chemistry as young lovers. The special features are satisfactory and include a few making of featurettes with Carny as well as Adam Levine plus videos of the cast auditions.

Sing Street is an exuberant romp and dramedy that is cut from the same cloth as one of John Hughes’ coming-of-age stories. The film is like a love letter to the craft of song writing and the characters are so darned likeable that you will be rooting for them all to succeed and hit the charts sometime soon. Sing Street is ultimately an accessible, multi-faceted story that is so fun to watch it will leave you singing its praises.

Originally published on 28 November 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/sing-street-blu-ray-review/

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BLU-RAY REVIEW: THE GREAT GATSBY

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The Great Gatsby is a film that only lives up to part of its name. The Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge) adaptation of the classic, F. Scott Fitzgerald novel is “great” insofar as it is lavish and rich in a visual sense. But this story simply does not transfer well onto screen (despite the many attempts that have been made over the years.) This is because the literary element and examination of the deterioration of the American dream cannot really be acted out, it needs to be read, imagined and experienced.

The film has recently been released on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. In this new format the film still remains a sumptuous period piece and epic and one that contains some modern twists. It is also still a visual splendour but it is a case where style does not equate to substance. Luhrmann’s over-reliance on flashy CGI and frenzied editing often make for sensation-overload or at the very least a dizzying watch.

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Jay Gatsby, a wealthy man who likes to tell people that he’s from old money and society. In reality, he’s a self-made man (read: bootlegger) who fell in love with a rich and sensual girl named Daisy Buchanan (the always-reliable, Carey Mulligan) during the First World War. Their affair was an intermittent one and Jay hoped that they would meet again and that he could win over her heart after making something of himself. Instead she marries the horrid, blue-blooded Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton) and Gatsby is left pining. Gatsby decides that the best way to find Daisy is to throw lavish parties to lure her in and for everyone else’s enjoyment but not really his own.

The casting of this film seems fairly reasonable. The doe-eyed, Tobey Maguire plays Nick Carraway, Daisy’s cousin and a writer who is telling a doctor about this summer love triangle while an in-patient at a sanatorium. In the novel a lot of the text is introspective so in order for it to be told on the screen, Luhrmann and co-writer Craig Pearce had to tell things from Carraway’s perspective. The filmmakers also took certain liberties with the story, leaving out some of the final chapters and using hip-hop and electronic music in a period that was synonymous with the jazz age. This alone makes the film feel like it’s trying too hard to be edgy.

The Blu-ray edition features a number of featurettes that are interesting and shine a light on the creative process. Luhrmann and the film’s co-stars feature quite prominently as does his wife, creative partner and producer, Catherine Martin. The latter is an Oscar-winner who has a real eye for detail and also served as the production designer and costumer. On the one hand the pair should be applauded for their ambition and attention for detail but that does not excuse the times where the film feels too bloated by its never-ending conga line of over-the-top visuals. It means that some of the fat could have been trimmed from the bone because this would have made for a better and more enjoyable film.

The Great Gatsby is a classic love story about the Nouveau Riche living in Long Island. For some it would be sacrilegious that a group of Australians decided to go and adapt it. This film is definitely not one for the purists or for the lovers of the book because nothing will ever be able to hold a candle to Fitzgerald’s amazing prose, especially when such liberties have been taken with this particular rendering. The Great Gatsby may prove “great” in a visual sense but it lacks what really matters and that is the sentimentality and truth of the original story.

Originally published on 19 November 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/great-gatsby-ultra-hd-blu-ray-review/

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BLU-RAY REVIEW: CONCUSSION

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Concussion is an inflammatory story that is told in a subtle and benign way. It’s a film that covers the real-life events of a Nigerian-American pathologist’s discovery of a brain disorder called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). It’s one that is caused by repeated trauma to the head and was initially discovered in the brains of some former football players. This film is an educational one but it could have been harder hitting in driving home its ultimate point.

Will Smith is virtually unrecognisable as Dr Bennet Omalu, a man that was steadfast, dogged and driven in making this discovery. The CTE disease is irreversible and marked by symptoms of aggression, dementia, memory problems and suicidal thoughts. This film is a tad uneven as it seems confused about whether it wants to be Dr Omalu’s biopic or a thriller or a hard-hitting look at the uphill battle that occurred when taking on a corrupt institution (in this case America’s National Football League (NFL).) Concussion is pure hagiography because it portrays Dr Omalu as a Christian do-gooder taking on the establishment.

Alec Baldwin stars as Dr Julian Bailes the former team doctor for the Pittsburgh Steelers football team. Gugu Mbatha-Raw has a minor role as Omalu’s love interest and is largely underutilised. The most important elements of this film are how the NFL tried to thwart Dr Omalu’s attempts to make this information public as well as the racism he encountered. This is a moral tale of epic proportions and an intriguing subject. The inspiration for the story came from a GQ Magazine article penned by Jeanne Marie Laskas and the story was directed and adapted for the big screen by former investigative journalist, Peter Landesman.

The Blu-ray edition offers excellent sound and video presentation. It also offers a number of different special features. There is a commentary with the director and some deleted scenes. There are also a number of featurettes that include interviews with the cast and crew and the real-life individuals that inspired the characters. The participants all give interesting insights into this fascinating story.

Concussion is a nuanced and well-acted dramatic story that has some room for improvement. It is perhaps the most mature Will Smith film to date and it offers an informative look at an important issue. There was room for it to be rendered in a tighter, more impactful way but at the end of the day this sombre film will challenge your ideas about some competitive sports. This was ultimately a film that had to be made and it offers us some very sobering and difficult moments to pause and reflect on.

Originally published on 4 July 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/concussion-blu-ray-review/

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BLU-RAY REVIEW: PRIDE & PREJUDICE & ZOMBIES

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Pride & Prejudice & Zombies is not for the faint-hearted or the Jane Austen purist. The film is an adaption of the successful, mash-up novel by Seth Grahame-Smith. While it has some enjoyable and indeed agreeable moments, the basic ingredients are too much like chalk and cheese. This means they could never really combine in any kind of effective manner.

The story begins by cannibalising Austen’s famous opening line. It states: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains wants more brains.” The plot is once again set in Hertfordshire, England in the 19th century. While it uses many of Austen’s major plot points and tries to include some of her witty observations about class, pride, love and prejudice, it can be very jarring to watch rather genteel manners at one moment and then zombie slaying battles at another.

The film is directed by Burr Steers who also doubles as the screenwriter. It stars Lily James (Downton Abbey and Cinderella) as the strong-willed, Elizabeth Bennett. In this case, Elizabeth seems more like a Lara Croft-inspired character as she engages in a series of battles and fights. To wit, the proposal by the haughty Fitzwilliam Darcy (a brooding Sam Riley whose performance here isn’t a patch on Control) descends into a full-blown, physical fight rather than a war of words.

This quaint English society is under threat of an impending zombie apocalypse. So while the single and available Bennet sisters are preoccupied with the prospect of marriage, they are also bad-ass girls and highly-skilled warriors. It means that instead of confining themselves to the refined talents of singing, piano playing and sewing, they are also seen cleaning, readying and wielding their weapons like muskets, knives, etc.

The Bennet parents are well-played here by the dry Charles Dance and the cheeky, Sally Phillips (some people will remember her as the foul-mouthed Shazza in Bridget Jones’s Diary.) Another fine performance comes courtesy of Doctor Who’s Matt Smith who plays the hapless and idiotic Parson Collins for its full comedic value. The woman he frequently speaks of, Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Lena Headey) is seen here as both a wealthy and influential woman and the zombie-slaying aunt of the military investigator, Fitzwilliam Darcy (the latter also has a Colin Firth-esque moment involving a white shirt and a lake.)

The Blu-ray edition of this film offers high quality sound and video. The special features are good and include a series of deleted scenes as well as a blooper reel. There are also a number of featurettes that describe adapting a classic, meeting Mr Collins and the Bennet sisters as well as a look at the cast overall. They offer some interesting insights into this rather dispensable film.

There have been countless zombie flicks and Pride & Prejudice adaptions (including straight ones as well as the stories that were inspired by the classic book.) But this film bit off a little more than it could chew because it attempts to consolidate Austen’s lengthy tale into a short runtime as well as include the thread about the impending apocalypse. The result is something that is neither terrible nor excellent.

There are some moments where the actors put in strong performances and the costumes and backdrop look sumptuous and are in keeping with the period. But for the most part it’s hard to get your head around this take on manners and society where the characters own actions seem at complete odds with themselves in different scenes. In all, it’s a clever idea where there is a clear disconnect between the very substance and ideas behind this piece.

Originally published on 4 July 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/pride-prejudice-zombies-blu-ray-review/

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BLU-RAY REVIEW: VINYL SEASON ONE

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A story clouded by lost brain cells, self-aggrandisement and bullshit. This is what the TV series, Vinyl sells you. It’s a heady dramatic turn through the sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll and hedonism that was the music industry in New York in 1973. This ten part TV series is a slow-burning, nuanced one that feels like a love letter to the period and the genre and a celebration of the redemptive power of rock ‘n’ roll.

This program has got a pretty impressive pedigree to say the least. The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger is a creator and producer along with Martin Scorsese (who also directs the pilot). Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire, The Sopranos) is also a creator and executive producer and the series stars Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire). Vinyl takes in both fictional and real-life events and artists and it is clear that it has been meticulously researched as it is very true to the period. While the series starts off a tad slowly, the later episodes really hit more of the right notes and will hook the viewer in.

Cannavale stars as the record executive, Richie Finestra and the principal owner of the fictional label, American Century. He is a liar and coke fiend but despite these vices has also managed to maintain a friendship with his business partner and the head of promotions, Zak Yankovich (Ray Romano who puts in a strong, dramatic performance). Finestra is married to Devon (Olivia Wilde) a former model and associate of Andy Warhol’s (John Cameron Mitchell). Devon is now sober and a restless mother to two young children.

The fortunes of the owners of American Century looked set to change when Polygram wanted to buy the company. But at the eleventh hour Finestra sees The New York Dolls and his interest and enthusiasm in music is restored. The deal is off, he decides to keep the company and attempt to turn their fortunes around for the better. The label is home to some jocular A & R reps and an ambitious coffee/drug girl Jamie Vine (an enchanting, Juno Temple) and she discovers a young, punk outfit The Nasty Bits (lead by Jagger’s son, James).

The soundtrack to this series is fantastic with David Bowie’s “Suffragette City”, “Life On Mars” and “Jean Genie” played alongside tracks like “Hey Joe” (made famous by Jimi Hendrix), The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again, Pink Floyd’s “Money”, The Hollies’ “Long Cool Woman In a Black Dress” and two Eddie Cochran hits that Led Zeppelin liked to cover, “Somethin’ Else” and “C’Mon Everybody”. In some instances the original track is used, in others it is a live version or a cover. The series also portrays some famous musicians in their youth- like Bowie (Noah Bean), John Lennon (Stephen Sullivan), Elvis Presley (Shawn Wayne Klush), Bob Marley (Leslie Kujo) and Peter Tosh (Aku Orraca-Tetteh), among others.

The series is not a perfect one. Some of the sub-plots are not satisfactorily explored (many of the female characters feel like quick punctuation marks to the whole tale), the flashbacks are sometimes a tad confusing and the pilot was overlong (at 113 minutes). But once you sit back and immerse yourself and get into the groove there is a lot to enjoy in this vibrant series. The individuals navigate through difficult marriages, a murder investigation, creative issues, brushes with the law and the mob, sexism and the tragedies of drugs and more. Vinyl is an enthusiastic look at the seventies but it’s not hagiography, the filmmakers are happy to show the real and raw grittiness of the environment, and this is especially important when the story is told through the eyes of the troubled main character and particularly as we follow his downward spiral.

The visuals in this series – like the soundtrack – seem quite true to the era. The colour palette looks like it could have come from an old video from the seventies and the costumes, scenery and props are also fitting for the decade. The special features on the Blu-ray are satisfactory and include audio commentaries, a featurette and some “Inside the episode” looks at the program with Terence Winter.

Vinyl is a sprawling TV series and a rich look at an exciting chapter in music. It stars a bunch of mad misfits and details their manic misadventures through friendship, booze, drugs and other excesses from this colourful period. In all, this is one fun and nostalgic look at the grit, glitz and glam that was the seventies New York music industry. Rock on!

Originally published on 13 June 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/vinyl-season-one-blu-ray-review/

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BLU-RAY REVIEW: CUT BANK

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Cut Bank is the sort of film that if you go in with low expectations you may just be pleasantly surprised. The movie is a pastiche of noir thriller and is indebted to the work of the Coen brothers in more ways than one. Cut Bank is ultimately the sort of story that is hardly ground-breaking, but it could just be a pleasant enough ride for the most part.

The film is written by Roberto Patino (Sons of Anarchy). It also marks the feature debut for veteran TV director, Matt Shakman who has recently been working on the TV adaptation of Fargo (and this has certainly influenced this film). Cut Bank is set in the small town of the same name in Montana and it shows the events that surround the first murder to have ever taken place in the area.

The gorgeous, Liam Hemsworth stars as a hunky and restless motor mechanic who has big dreams of leaving this place for dust. He wants to bring his girlfriend, Cassandra Steeley (the sweet, Teresa Palmer) along for the ride. The latter is a natural beauty who is about to enter a local pageant. The pair were filming Steeley’s entry video in a picturesque field (this is one of many great settings that show off the excellent cinematography by Ben Richardson) but they also inadvertently capture a murder in progress.

Local mailman, Georgie Wits (Bruce Dern) is shot and there is a reward offered by the government for any information relating to the death of a federal employee. Local sheriff (a subdued, John Malkovich) is a little out of his depth because he vomits at the idea of undertaking a murder investigation. Thankfully he is ably assisted by Steeley’s father (Billy Bob Thornton). The town is also inhabited by a local weirdo and taxidermist (Michael Stuhlbarg who shares a few things in common with Robin Williams’ character in One Hour Photo). He seems like a prime suspect but to some people he may just seem like an enthusiastic US Post user who just wants his missing, “p-p-p-parcel!”

Cut Bank can be a tad outrageous and unrealistic at times. There are moments where things fall apart and the proceedings seem to veer a little too far off-course. At other times the film tries a bit too hard and fails, especially when the characters seem only half-formed. One positive however, is that the film is a brief one and it has an excellent, veteran cast that put in solid performances that keep things moving.

The special features on the Blu-ray are disappointing. There are no featurettes- all that is offered is simply the theatrical trailer and a handful of cast interviews with: Malkovich, Thornton, Stuhlbarg, Dern and Oliver Platt. For a Blu-ray containing such a short feature film this really misses the mark as there was room for the audience to enjoy so much more.

Cut Bank has its moments of decent, dark noir but it can be a bit predictable at times as it borrows a little too much from other films in the genre. If you want a story about a murder set in a small town with some simple curveballs and twists then this is a story for you. It’s not going to change your life or the world but you might just find some entertaining moments if you wade in deep enough.

 

Originally published on 4 June 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/cut-bank-blu-ray-review/

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BLU-RAY REVIEW: FORREST GUMP

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It’s been over 20 years since audiences were introduced to an idiot-savant named Forrest Gump. The whimsical dramedy was like Gump’s own telling of this one American life. It was ultimately an extraordinary story told in a magical way and was a well-deserved recipient of the Best Picture Oscar at the 67th Academy Awards.

The film is a sentimental adaptation of a novel by Winston Groom and the screenplay was written by Eric Roth. The film was directed by Robert Zemeckis who had helmed the Back to the Future films and would go on to work with Tom Hanks in Cast Away. Forrest Gump is a captivating and rich story that is full of both dark and sweet elements meaning there will be moments that will make you want to laugh, cry or will tug at your heart strings.

The Oscar-winning, Tom Hanks stars as the simple but charming, Gump. The film opens with the famous scenes of the pure white feather floating through the air before we stop to sit with Gump at a bus stop as he gently tells us his life story. It’s one full of wide-eyed optimism and some famous one-liners and it’s a tale that can appeal to everybody because it is told with such sincerity.

We learn that Gump has met US presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon as well as helping people to uncover the Watergate scandal. Gump has also met some famous rock stars, he taught Elvis Presley dance when the hound dog stayed at the Gump family home quite early on in his career and Gump also appeared with John Lennon on the Dick Cavett show. When Gump wasn’t busy rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous he also managed to run across the country, play college football, play ping-pong for America, fight in Vietnam and evolve into an astute businessman and shrimp boat captain.

Gump’s childhood friend and lifelong love was Jenny (Robin Wright). She had a series of issues to contend with in her life and hers was nowhere near as successful as Gump’s. Jenny tries her hand at singing, stripping, political activism, drugs and sex. Jenny’s life was a complicated one because she was abused by her father when she was young. By comparison, Gump was encouraged by his adoring mother (Sally Field) and she had her own unique way of explaining things to her mentally-challenged son, like likening life to a box of chocolates because “You never know what you’re gonna get”.

Forrest Gump is still captivating to watch thanks to its vivid storyline and some excellent lead performances. A special mention should also be made about the film’s fabulous soundtrack because it reads like a who’s who of popular American music from the mid to late 20th century. The film is also a visual delight thanks to the ultra HD video and the tireless work of Ken Ralston the special effects supervisor and his team. It is thrilling to watch the meetings between Gump and various stars as well as watching Lieutenant Dan (Gary Sinise) transform from able-bodied to a double amputee. You’d swear it was all real and this is particularly amazing when you consider that CGI was not used as commonly back then as it is today.

The Blu-ray edition has an extensive number of informative special features. These include feature-length documentaries about the making of the film including the art of screenplay adaption, the visual and sound effects and casting the younger version of Forrest Gump (Michael Conner Humphreys). There is a Q & A-style panel with Hanks, Roth, Zemeckis and Sinise as well as lots of cast and crew interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. Two theatrical trailers are also included as well as some screen tests and an extensive look at the film’s soundtrack with Rolling Stone’s Ben Fong-Torres. The latter is joined by musicians like: Michelle Phillips, David Crosby, Ray Manzarek, Roger McGuinn, Scott McKenzie, John Phillips, Pete Seeger and Jackson Browne, to name a few.

Forrest Gump is a Southern dream about an American hero. It’s an emotional and inspiration film that seems to be made out of fine, magical pixie dust. While the story may be a long one, it’s worth every minute to step inside the sweet, charming and sentimental world of Forrest Gump and his friends as they celebrate a life that was well-lived.

Originally published on 11 May 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/forrest-gump-blu-ray-review/

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