I’ve Got The Blus – New Blu-ray & DVD Releases For Week Of 6/24 – 300: Rise of an Empire, Enemy, Rob the Mob, Blood Ties, Wolf Creek 2

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Thought I’d forgotten about you, didn’t you? I am aware that I am two days late in posting this week’s noteworthy Blu-ray releases, but I have a good excuse. I was on a family trip, where we both played at a waterpark, went for a two our boat cruise, and made our way to the AMC IMAX theater in the area to see a movie I had been dying to see(The Rover) but didn’t have a chance to see it at home. In any event, if this is your first exposure to I’ve Got The Blus, this is something new I’m trying, to make sure that everything I’m sent to review, gets equal coverage. Really it’s about me getting organized, and keeping better track of the new releases, instead of letting them form a three-foot pile and becoming overwhelmed. Last week saw a pretty heavy week full of solid releases, and there are several must-own titles this week as well. Next week will be even better, maybe, so stay tuned for that to drop, hopefully on Tuesday morning.

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Wolf Creek 2 (IMAGE)

I’ve already reviewed Wolf Creek 2, when the PR firm promoting the title provided me with a screener back before the title hit VOD. If you’d like to read that full review, you may do so by clicking here. Now that that is out of the way, Wolf Creek 2 is one of my favorite movies released in 2014. It does everything a sequel should do, and does so with great style, precision and a level of spectacular looking gore and fast-paced carnage that other films will have a tough time matching this year. Below is a snippet from my original view, and some thoughts on the Blu-ray itself.

Wolf Creek 2, after an insane opening scene, follows a German couple as they backpack throughout the Australian countryside. When they decide to setup camp in the middle of a giant, seemingly deserted field, they are greeted by Mick Taylor(After a couple of near-encounters out on the road), who at first, seems to be offering to help the two of them. After the refusal of his help, however, his real motives become quite evident, as he savagely beats and murders the male component of said couple. From this point, it’s a game of cat and mouse between him, and and the murdered man’s girlfriend. It would appear that she would be the main protagonist of the film, but we’re quickly introduced to Paul, played by Ryan Corr, and after he “gets in the way” of Mick’s intended victim/meal, becomes the major focus of the brutality. Where as Wolf Creek was a slow-burn, Wolf Creek 2 gives the viewer very few moments to catch their breath. Just when you think Paul has made it to a momentary safe zone, here comes Mick with an even more insane method of catching his prey. It almost plays out like a video game, or The Raid. The insanity increases with each scene, always one-upping the last bit of carnage that took your breath away from you.

One of the reactions I’ve noticed, is that some viewers were jarred by the “humor” of the sequel, considering that the first film was a pretty straightforward horror film. Beyond the one-liners from Mick, which we should expect after his wacky on-screen presence in the first film, the only humor I noticed comes in the form of the soundtrack, which in the scope of the film, is completely badass. One scene in particular, that involves a Mack truck, is forever burned into my brain. Some more delicate viewers might get upset at the scene I am referring to, but for me, it is one of the most epic sequences in any horror movie that I have seen so far in the year 2014, and the song they attached to the scene was just perfect, in my eyes. It took an already phenomenal scene, and elevated it to one of the most memorable sequences in any horror sequel that I can remember. Definitely for the last several years, at least. I don’t want to spoil anything, but just as a warning, I’ll say, that if you are a fan of Kangaroos, you may get a little angry during this sequence. Call me a dick, but I was grinning ear-to-ear.

And that’s the feeling I had when the credits rolled, in all honesty. I quickly messaged James on Facebook(who also loved the film) to relay to him that it was an exercise in epic badassery. I’ve enjoyed films in 2014, but so far, Wolf Creek 2 is the only one that caused my face to hurt from smiling and laughing. And that’s not to say that it is a comedy. It really isn’t, save for the soundtrack that I mentioned, and a couple of the things that come out of Mick’s mouth. But, the amount of sheer awesomeness and insanity that happens within the 106 minute running time, caused me to smile uncontrollably. It’s going to have its detractors, because, you know, it’s 2014 and it has become cool to “hate” anything popular. But, if you’re looking for a horror sequel done right, I can’t see you doing much better this year than Wolf Creek 2. I realize that it is still too early in the year to be making such predictions, but I highly doubt you’ll see a “Best Of” list from me this year that doesn’t include this film. I can’t wait until more people get the chance to see it.

This is the only Blu-ray on the list that I wasn’t sent for review. The PR firm did, however, offer me a DVD, but I politely declined and just purchased this disc. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the offer, it’s just that I have no interest in collecting, or viewing a movie on DVD when it is available on Blu-ray. As for the disc itself, I got a chance to skim through it last night, and it looks and sounds phenomenal. It has a couple of extras on the disc(literally) so it’s not exactly the definitive release of the film – but, hey – Wolf Creek hasn’t even made it to the format in North America yet, so it’s a step in the right direction, right? On the disc would be a Making Of documentary, and some deleted scenes and that’s it. That’s okay, though, because this is a Blu-ray that deserves to be on your shelf, and it’s unlikely that we’ll get a special edition release of the title any time in the near future. You can and SHOULD purchase your copy by clicking here.

[Rating:8/10]

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Enemy (Lionsgate)

Enemy is a tense mystery about a guy, who when co-worker recommends a movie in an awkward conversation, discovers he has a doppelganger with several small film roles. He decides to seek this man out so that he can get a closer look at his life. When the two finally come face to face, things become too weird, and everything goes downhill from there. This is a superbly crafted thriller by Denis Villeneuve, who also brought us the haunting Prisoners in 2013. Prisoners, while it shares a somewhat similar tone, is a far more accessible film than Enemy. I personally find Enemy to be the superior film, but it will be divisive to viewers, mostly due to the disorienting nature of the photography, the music, and the structure of the film itself. At moments, you’ll feel hopelessly lost, as if the movie is weaving in and out of linear storytelling. Who is the main character even? Is it Adam, or is it Anthony? Are they separated at birth, or is something more sinister at work? Enemy plays with the viewer’s perception of reality so well, that it will have you second-guessing yourself, even after the conclusion.

This is a spectacular film, with a powerhouse performance from Jake Gyllenhaal, and a strong supporting cast as well. What I love about a film like this, is that the seething ambiguity leaves so much of the story up for individual interpretation, that no theory can technically be wrong. My personal thoughts, are that the “enemy” of the story are the women in Anthony/Adam’s life, and his/their fear of commitment, or entrapment, as signified by the recurring theme of spiders in the film, as well as the dream-like interpretation of blueberries, which represent being stuck in a situation which will end in disaster regardless of which route is taken. I honestly can’t tell you, whether or not there are actually two characters that look alike in this film, or if this is one character, experiencing advance symptoms of multiple personality disorders. There is enough evidence to support either theory.

The Blu-ray itself, much like the photography and color scheme of the film, look absolutely stunning in 1080p. This is a film that you need to see in the superior home video format. Not only does it look beautiful, but the DTS-HD Master Audio track will propel the haunting score of the film to bounce off of every corner of your entertainment room. The only special feature on the disc is a making-of featurette, so there’s not a lot offered up to the viewer that would like to learn more about the story after-the-fact. This is a must-own title though, in my opinion. If you are a fan of cinema that toys with the viewer, in such a manipulative way that it causes them to doubt reality, then this is one you’re going to need to see. If you would like to purchase a copy of the Blu-ray for yourself, you may do so by clicking here. I’ve got my eye on director Denis Villeneuve now, after two exceptional films, I have no doubt that he’ll continue to churn out gems like this, so long as he’s given the opportunity.

[Rating:9/10]

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300: Rise of an Empire (Warner)

I know a lot of people are fanatics when it comes to the film adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel 300. Personally, I enjoyed watching it once, but could never muster up the interest in revisiting it, even when the pre-sequel(huh?) was announced. It’s not that it’s a poorly made franchise, it’s just that there is so much CGI blood and gore and unnecessary slow-motion. If were were to re-cut the first film, and remove every bit of gimmicky slow-motion, we would have a film that runs at at least half the time as what we got with the theatrical release of the film. To some, that may seem like a nitpicky complaint, but I’ve always had a pretty low tolerance for CGI blood. I’m also not a purist that complains about every single usage of CG. I understand that in today’s film climate, sometimes you have to opt for CGI over practical effects, and a lot of the time I will forgive it, or not even recognize it as a problem. Blood splatter, though, it has always bothered me. Fake blood is so simple to make, and it’s so easy to hire a gopher to carry around a bucket and splatter it all over everything. The harder-cored gore, I can understand, because make-up and prosthetics take a lot of time and energy to produce, even if they do produce the superior on-screen reaction to any given situation.

So, 300: Rise of an Empire, in some ways, is more of the same. There are certainly long, unnecessary scenes presented in slow-motion, and virtual buckets of CGI bloody, but RoaE has a little something extra going on for it. Not only does the gorgeous Eva Green portray a murderous psychopath, and do so with gravitas, AND, get very, very naked for one of the hottest sex scenes I’ve seen this year, but I found the story, and mostly the back-story of everything to be a little more interesting this time around. It is very much connected to the first film in a lot of ways, with some characters even making a return to the screen. I will say, if you are a fan of the graphic novels, then you will likely enjoy this film. I can’t say that 300 is my favorite Frank Miller book, as you could imagine, but I don’t hate them. It’s just not something that really appeals to me in a way that would make me want to read/watch them over-and-over. I did enjoy my time with 300: ROE, however, and can wholeheartedly recommend a blind-buy of the Blu-ray disc. It features a stunningly gorgeous video presentation, and an audio exhibition that vibrated the windows in my house. Extras on the disc include some behind-the-scenes footage, some deleted footage from the film, and tons of back-story so that you can – if you would like – learn every single thing you could possibly want to know about the history of the 300 Spartans and more. If you wish to purchase a copy for yourself, you will find the 2D version here, and the 3D version here. I was sent a 2D Blu-ray copy of the film for the purpose of this review, so I can’t comment on the impact 3D has on the film.

[Rating:7/10]

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Rob the Mob (Millennium) *SPOILERS(SORTA)*

What led me to requesting a copy of Rob the Mob to review, was mostly the involvement of Michael Pitt. I have been aware of his talent for most of his career, but after his role in Bully, I really started to follow him, and try to at least give anything he’s been involved in a chance. I hadn’t heard a single mention of this movie elsewhere, except for from Kevin over at Screen-Connections, and he shares my Michael Pitt obsession, so it’s safe to assume that this little movie flew way under the radar. It didn’t get a wide theatrical release, it didn’t get any kind of promotion whatsoever, other than the PR campaign to promote the Blu-ray release, which is what I’m doing right now. It’s  a shame, because it really is a great little film. It’s not the best thing I’ve seen this year, nor is it even something that will find a spot in my top 20 of the year, but I had absolutely no problems with it, and it kept me entertained from start to finish. Hell, it even made me like Ray Romano, a man that I usually loathe with the burning passion of a demon from Hell.

Rob the Mob is a simple story, based on an actual event, where a couple of long-time losers that have grown up in an area dominated by the mob, come into some information that leads to both a robbery spree, wherein they rip off mob establishments, or “social clubs” where guns are not allowed, as well as their eventual execution/retribution, on Xmas eve. It’s a funny movie, most of the time, and yes, I realize I just gave the ending of the movie away – sort of – but, like I said, it is based on a true story, so I really haven’t told you anything that you shouldn’t already know going into the film. I realize it’s not as high profile is something like Titanic – where if I had said, the boat sinks at the end – you’d feel no sense of loss, but you know practically from the first robbery, that these kids are not going to have a happy ending, even if you are unfamiliar with the story it is based on. This is a movie where, clearly the main characters are doing wrong, but the way in which it is presented, you really root for them. They’ve both been wronged in some way by the mob, and it feels good to see them get a little bit of revenge, even if it comes at such a steep price. There are some deleted scenes, commentary, and a few other little things, if you’d like to learn a little more about the story after you’re done watching the film. This is a recommended blind-buy, if you’re looking for a little something outside the confines of horror, and not getting much mention elsewhere. If you would like to purchase a copy for yourself, you may do so by clicking here.

[Rating:7.5/10]

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Blood Ties (Lionsgate)

Blood Ties is a film that I am genuinely shocked at the lack of attention it has received. Usually a movie like this, with such a stellar cast, and a genuine reproduction of a past decade (Seventies) gets at least a little bit of attention. I had heard absolutely no mention of Blood Ties until I saw the trailer at the beginning of Lionsgate’s JOE Blu-ray. As soon as I saw it, I reached out to my LG hookup and asked if I could score a copy for review, and I’m glad that I did, because I liked it quite a bit. It’s not going to be for everyone, because it crawls along at a snails pace, and there’s no big “gotcha” jump-scare ending for the sake of shock. Really, the public demands unrealistic and cheap things from our entertainment. Everything has to be NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW! So few people appreciate the slow setup, and realistic, gritty storytelling. These are all things you get from Blood Ties. It’s slow-burning, realistic almost to a fault, and extremely gritty. It’s packaged as a crime/thriller, but in reality, it is a crime/family drama, presented in a similar fashion as We Own The Night.

Beyond the standard production values, which are well above average, what carries Blood Ties and makes it interesting, is its amazing ensemble cast, and their powerful performances. On paper, Mila Kunis and Clive Owen being a couple seems somewhat ridiculous, but in the context of the film, it actually works really well. You understand why those two characters would find a strong connection, and it lends to the overall heartache of the entire story. James Caan’s role, though succinct, was greatly performed as always. The slow-burn may turn some viewers off, but that’s the stuff I love, personally. I get a little antsy with some of this new-wave, quick-cut editing and flashy visual presentations. Not always does it bother me, but a lot of the time, it makes me yearn for the days when a filmmaker would take his time, introduce the audience to the characters, and make you care about their lives before putting them in peril. Blood Ties does this quite well. Before the house of cards begins to tumble, you’ll get the feels for several of the characters, and their predicament. The Blu-ray itself is beautiful. This film is set during the seventies, and in a lot of ways, it feels like a seventies production. From the actual look of the film, to the music, to the clothing, the lingo, it feels authentic. The Blu-ray does not feature a wealth of extra features – which is unfortunate – but for new release movies, it’s something that most of us have grown accustomed to. If you would like to purchase a copy of Blood Ties, you may do so by clicking here.

 

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