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Blu-ray Release: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

December 16, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Blu-ray

Today, Paramount is releasing the recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot on Blu-ray.  Teaming up with budding reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox), genetically enhanced turtles Leonardo (Johnny Knoxville), Donatello (Jeremy Howard), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) and Raphael (Alan Ritchson) must venture out of the sewers to save New York City from their evil nemesis Shredder (Tohoru Masamune).

Despite the thankfully short running time, this Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is actually kind of boring and can be annoying.  Although trying to have a strong female lead, the film still feels sexist, and the action is generic, derivative of what producer Michael Bay has already overdone in his own tiring Transformers franchise.  Some hardcore fans might still get a kick out of it, but everyone else unfortunately won’t be feeling the turtle power this time around.

The Blu-ray includes an extended ending, several featurettes and the “Shell Shocked” music video.  The package also comes with two reversible coloured masks.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is 101 minutes and rated PG.

-John Corrado

DVD Release: Magic in the Moonlight

December 16, 2014

Magic in the Moonlight DVD

Sony Pictures Classics is releasing Magic in the Moonlight on DVD today, the latest from writer-director Woody Allen.  Stanley (Colin Firth) is a famed magician who travels to France to try and disprove Sophie’s (Emma Stone) claims of actually having psychic powers.  But instead he finds himself falling for her and starting to question his own skeptic beliefs.

Although not as strong as the great Midnight in Paris, or last year’s Oscar-winning Blue Jasmine, Magic in the Moonlight is still an entertaining high concept romantic comedy from Woody Allen.  Elevated by a cleverly written screenplay and an excellent cast, including charming performances from Colin Firth and Emma Stone, this one is worth checking out.

The DVD includes a “behind the scenes” featurette and footage from the Los Angeles premiere.

Magic in the Moonlight is 97 minutes and rated G.

-John Corrado

DVD Release: Mork & Mindy: The Complete Series

December 16, 2014

Mork & Mindy DVD

Last week, Paramount released Mork & Mindy: The Complete Series on DVD, featuring all 95 episodes of the classic show about Mork (Robin Williams), an eccentric alien from the planet Ork, who comes to Earth to study humans and becomes friends with Mindy (Pam Dawber).

Running for four seasons from 1978 to 1982, this Happy Days spinoff series gave Robin Williams his breakout role, and the rest is history.  The comic genius brought delightful energy and sweetly childlike innocence to the title alien, perfectly delivering his trademark mix of hilarious antics with a charming and heartfelt centre.  

Because of this, Mork & Mindy still holds up beautifully, with many scenes taking on added resonance in the wake of his tragic death, like a movingly prescient talk about the perils of celebrity in the poignant and brilliantly meta third season episode Mork Meets Robin Williams.

Featuring one of the best actors and entertainers of all time, in one of his most beloved and iconic roles, Mork & Mindy: The Complete Series is a must watch for all Robin Williams fans.  It’s absolutely wonderful, and would make a great gift, especially with the endearing first season episode Mork’s First Christmas.

The fifteen-disc DVD set also includes three gag reels and the two original episodes of Happy Days where Mork was first introduced.

Mork & Mindy: The Complete Series is approximately 2385 minutes and rated PG.

-John Corrado

Three Views: The Imitation Game

December 12, 2014

The Imitation Game Poster

The Imitation Game – An Elevation Pictures Release

Release Date: December 12th, 2014 (Limited)

January 16th, 2015 (Wide)
Rated PG for mature themes and language
Running Time: 114 minutes

Morten Tyldum (director)

Graham Moore (screenplay)

Based on the book Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges

Alexandre Desplat (music)

Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing
Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke
Matthew Goode as Hugh Alexander
Rory Kinnear as Detective Robert Nock
Allen Leech as John Cairncross
Matthew Beard as Peter Hilton
Charles Dance as Commander Denniston
Mark Strong as Stewart Menzies
Alex Lawther as Young Alan Turing
Jack Bannon as Christopher Morcom

The Imitation Game

Matthew Beard, Matthew Good, Keira Knightley, Benedict Cumberbatch and Allen Leech in The Imitation Game.

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The Imitation Game Review By John Corrado

***1/2 (out of 4)

Benedict Cumberbatch delivers the best work of his career so far in director Morten Tyldum’s handsomely produced biopic The Imitation Game, an expertly acted Oscar contender that already won the coveted People’s Choice Award at TIFF.

At the height of World War II, British forces enlisted the help of brilliant but socially awkward mathematician Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) to help crack Enigma, a code being used by the Germans to send coordinates of their upcoming attacks.  Leading a group of intellectuals, including sole female Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) who was the closest match to his own fierce intelligence, Alan Turing created a machine that helped them win the war, laying the groundwork for modern computers.

From his walk to the way he clenches his hands, Benedict Cumberbatch is captivating to watch and draws us into the mind of Alan Turing, who was tragically persecuted for his closeted homosexuality, and often found his machines easier to understand than people.  This is a quietly affective performance, infused with the excitement of watching a possibly autistic genius at work, while also allowing for moments of gentle humour and genuine heartbreak.  Keira Knightley delivers an excellent supporting turn, complimenting him and more than holding her own.

A little more focus could have been put on Alan Turing’s homosexuality and other relationships, but overall Graham Moore’s sharp screenplay does a good job of dramatizing his life, affectively using a fractured narrative to add intrigue to this true story.  The film is punctuated by deeply touching flashbacks that movingly show his struggles to understand the world around him as a child, expertly handled by outstanding newcomer Alex Lawther.  The last act focuses on the moral complexity of breaking Enigma, but still not being able to stop every attack, lest the Nazis find out and change the codes.

Although the final images are marked with sadness, The Imitation Game is also inspirational, celebrating Alan Turing’s remarkable achievements, and the ability of those who think differently to help change the world.  Elevated by the excellent ensemble cast, this is an engaging, intelligently written and emotionally affective biopic, that comes alive thanks to Benedict Cumberbatch’s magnetic performance.

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The Imitation Game Review By Erin Corrado

**** (out of 4)

During WWII the Nazis used an encrypting machine called Enigma.  This was considered to be the best code-making machine of its kind, and seemingly impossible to beat.  In order to try to break the messages that would tell of planned U-Boat and other attacks on the Allies, MI6 in London put together a team of University students, professors, and scholars with specialities in the fields of mathematics and languages.

Among these brilliant minds was a man named Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) – the socially awkward, but geniously intelligent man who loved puzzles and considered the Enigma to be one he could solve.  In order to beat the machine, Turing became obsessed with building a machine of his own – simply put, a computer named ‘Christopher.’  With skepticism from colleagues and partially due to his inability to make friends easily, the project was almost shut down.  But it would also be the thing that would help win the war.

The film tells Turing’s story through flashbacks as he sits in a police station telling of his secret work to an official, after being arrested for being ‘caught’ with a man, as homosexuality was illegal at that time in Britain.  This storytelling device works well and adds another layer to the performance.  And Cumberbatch’s performance is Oscar-worthy.  Sensitive and emotional, while also having a driving persistence for his projects and amazing intelligence, we really are connected to and feel for Turing through his portrayal.

This is in no way a dry biopic – this is an emotional drama about a time and man in history, that has influenced our very lives, even around 70 years later.  The film is entertaining, wonderfully shot, and incredibly moving – dealing with themes that are still at the forefront in places today.  The score by Alexandre Desplat is also very well-matched to the picture and one of the best of the year in my book.  All in all, The Imitation Game manages to be historical, yet timely, and an intense and relatable film.  I can’t wait to see it again.  For hours after seeing the film, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

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The Imitation Game Review By Tony Corrado

***1/2 (out of 4)

The Imitation Game deals with the breaking of the Nazi Enigma code by the team led by Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) at England’s Bletchley Park. Turing was socially awkward and not a team player, but with Churchill’s support overcame the scepticism of his commanders and colleagues to build a machine that could effectively crack the daily codes, a precursor to the computer.

Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) was a brilliant mathematician who broke the gender barrier to be on his team and as a dear platonic friend agreed to marry him as a shield from prosecution for being gay. The film is seen as a flashback narrated about a decade later from an interrogation room following an arrest for indecency.

Benedict Cumberbatch’s brilliant portrayal raises The Imitation Game to a level above what is otherwise a solid, if not outstanding biopic, with a fine British supporting cast and period production in original locations.

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Consensus: Dramatizing the life of Alan Turing, The Imitation Game is a moving and intelligent biopic, elevated by an outstanding performance from Benedict Cumberbatch, and excellent supporting work courtesy of Keira Knightley. ***3/4 (out of 4)

Bloor Cinema Release: Antarctica: A Year on Ice

December 12, 2014

By John Corrado

Antarctica Poster

A thoroughly engaging look at what it takes to live on the edge of the planet, the spectacularly filmed documentary Antarctica: A Year on Ice opens today at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema.  Tickets and showtimes are right here.

Although many workers and scientists populate the base camps and research stations over the summer, director Anthony Powell is one of the few people who has spent the entire year living in Antarctica.  This includes surviving the bitingly cold and dark winter months, when the remaining people are forced to become a tight knit community and help each other through.

Touching on the loneliness that comes from isolation, along with the humbling and spiritually reflective beauty of the untouched landscapes, Antarctica: A Year on Ice is a fascinating look at the experience of truly living in the coldest place on Earth.  But the documentary also has moments of levity courtesy of their delightful Christmas and New Years celebrations, and the quirky homemade film festival that Anthony Powell sets up to pass the time.

The time-lapse photography and montages of the aurora australis swirling through the starry night sky are simply breathtaking, rarely seen images of natural phenomena that make Antarctica: A Year on Ice a visually stunning film to experience.  It’s well worth a trek to the theatre for this one, especially as we enter our own snowy winter months.

Blu-ray Release: Guardians of the Galaxy

December 9, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy Blu-ray

Today, Disney is releasing Guardians of the Galaxy on Blu-ray.  When Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) steals an Orb, the ruthless Gamora (Zoe Saldana), as well as Rocket Racoon (Bradley Cooper) and his tree companion Groot (Vin Diesel), try to bring him into custody to collect a bounty.  The four of them end up thrown in prison, where they meet Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), causing them to reluctantly band together to stop Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace).

With an endearingly ragtag group of characters, genuine heart and plenty of great moments along the way, there is ultimately a lot to love about Guardians of the Galaxy, including one of the best soundtracks in recent memory.  Currently the highest grossing film of 2014, this is also one of the year’s most purely enjoyable blockbusters, an insanely fun space adventure that provides great entertainment.  My full review is right here.

The Blu-ray includes commentary with director James Gunn, a couple of featurettes on the production, deleted scenes, a gag reel, and a sneak peak at The Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Guardians of the Galaxy is 122 minutes and rated PG.

-John Corrado

Blu-ray Release: The Hundred-Foot Journey

December 9, 2014

The Hundred-Foot Journey Blu-ray

Last week, Touchstone Pictures released The Hundred-Foot Journey on Blu-ray.  When young chef Hassan (Manish Dayal) moves from India to France, his father (Om Puri) buys an old property to open their own restaurant.  The only problem is that they are a hundred feet across from uptight Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren), who operates a classic French restaurant, and the two cultures end up clashing.

Based on the bestseller by Richard C. Morais, The Hundred-Foot Journey is a feel good movie, and there is an inherent sweetness to how the characters come together.  This is a solidly acted and very enjoyable film that should be savoured like a good meal, a piece of lusciously photographed and delightfully entertaining cinematic comfort food that left me smiling.  You can read my full review right here.

The Blu-ray includes a conversation with producers Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey, as well as three featurettes.

The Hundred-Foot Journey is 122 minutes and rated PG.

-John Corrado

Review: Wild

December 5, 2014

By John Corrado

**** (out of 4)

Wild Poster

When Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) started hiking solo along the Pacific Crest Trail, she was battling multiple addictions and substance abuse problems in the wake of her failed marriage, and still grieving the death of her beloved mother (Laura Dern).

Finding herself at a crossroads in her mostly stalled out life, she set out on this journey to quite literally move forward, her constant momentum and determination to complete the rigorous trek allowing plenty of time for both quiet reflection and reconciliation.

Cheryl Strayed’s journey became the subject of a bestselling memoir, subtitled From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, and director Jean-Marc Vallée does justice to the material with Wild.  This is a strikingly mature and solidly crafted drama that is both heartbreaking and inspirational, offering genuine emotion through an intensely personal story of perseverance as well as self discovery and reinvention.

As set against the starkly beautiful natural landscapes, Cheryl Strayed’s journey is as much physical as it is emotional and even spiritual.  This is also a story about the unique encounters that she has with people and animals along the way, the often quiet and sometimes seemingly small events that ultimately helped put her life back on track.  And Wild is full of these beautiful little moments, with countless scenes that continue to resonate, including a moving encounter with a young boy late in the film.

Jean-Marc Vallée is a filmmaker who doesn’t shy away from the darker elements of a story, as he proved with last year’s standout Dallas Buyers Club, which makes him a natural fit to bring Cheryl Strayed’s revealing memoir to the screen.  The director also has a gift for guiding his actors to stripped down and emotionally bare places, and Reese Witherspoon delivers one of her best performances in Wild.  The Oscar-winner fearlessly throws herself into the grittier aspects of this real life character, while also displaying fierce hope and determination to keep moving forward, no matter what the cost.

This is stirring work from the actress now entering the comeback stage of her already impressive career, revealing herself without makeup and in various states of undress, through quick cut montages of graphic sex and drug use that are easily the most explicit of her filmography.  But this is all done in service of the story, adding a feeling of authenticity to Wild that makes the final scenes that much more emotionally cathartic and powerful.  Seen through flashbacks that provide greater meaning for the central journey, Laura Dern delivers a deeply touching supporting performance, portraying Cheryl Strayed’s mother as a woman who radiates warmth and hope, despite having endured her own trials in life.

The cinematography breathtakingly captures the impressive scope of the natural landscapes, and the story comes together beautifully through some perfect editing, and an excellent screenplay by Nick Hornby.  The soundtrack is also commendable, a recognizable collection of pop songs that often take on new meaning through their placement in the film.  Both in terms of title and subject matter, not to mention the shared “based on a true story” origins, comparisons to Sean Penn’s 2007 triumph Into the Wild are expected and deserved.  But where that film ended on a note of heartbreak, the final moments of Wild evoke tears for a different reason.

There is something powerful about Cheryl Strayed’s journey that makes Wild so touching and relatable, a story of resilience and hope, even when giving up seems like the easier option.  This is a moving, engaging and achingly heartfelt film, the effects of which linger long after leaving the theatre.

Review: Copenhagen

December 3, 2014

By John Corrado

**1/2 (out of 4)

Copenhagen Poster

Copenhagen is a solidly acted and well made independent film that I think is worth a look.  But this recommendation comes with reservations, because I don’t think that every element of the story works, which I’ll talk about more later on.  The film opens today, exclusively at Carlton Cinemas.

After his best friend Jeremy (Sebastian Armesto) ditches him on a trip to Denmark, William (Gethin Anthony) is left on his own to track down the estranged grandfather that he has never met, and deliver an old letter from his recently deceased father.

With only photographs to track him down, and a language barrier standing in his way, the immature William finds help from the wiser than her years Effy (Frederikke Dahl Hansen), a young local girl who has her own personal reasons for wanting to unravel the mystery.

The two start developing feelings for each other, but their budding friendship is complicated by the fact that he is in his late twenties and she is shockingly only fourteen.  But before addressing the proverbial elephant in the room that is this disturbingly wide age gap, which could keep some audiences at arm’s length, I would first like to focus on the other elements of Copenhagen that really do work, of which there are several.

As a whole, Copenhagen is a pretty good film and a promising directorial debut for Mark Raso, with solid acting and some genuinely well written scenes.  Best known for Game of Thrones, Gethin Anthony is very good in the leading role, bringing to life a complex and imperfect character.  Newcomer Frederikke Dahl Hansen also delivers strong work, and could easily have a bright future ahead of her.  The screenplay does a fine job of setting up the character beats and more mystery like elements of the film, keeping us interested as all the pieces of the story start slowly falling into place.

But the central relationship that develops between William and Effy ultimately feels more unsettling than appealing, and can distract from the more intriguing elements at hand, a problem that could have easily been fixed if they just made the character a few years older.  Copenhagen is still worth checking out, but just expect to feel a little uncomfortable.

Blu-ray Release: Third Person

December 2, 2014

Third Person Blu-ray

After premiering at TIFF back in 2013, D Films is releasing Third Person on Blu-ray today.  Written and directed by Paul Haggis, following a similar structure to his superior Oscar-winner Crash, the film weaves together the stories of a novelist (Liam Neeson) and his mistress (Olivia Wilde), a man (Adrien Brody) helping a mysterious stranger (Moran Atias), and an unstable mother (Mila Kunis) trying to regain custody of her son.

With a screenplay that is purposefully vague on details and character development, leading up to a preposterous final reveal, Third Person is a sprawling and often self indulgent melodrama that never really takes off, despite the presence of a talented ensemble cast.  Although the big name actors could easily attract a curious audience at home, the film unfortunately feels like a disappointing missed opportunity.

The Blu-ray includes a commentary track with Paul Haggis and others, a Q&A with the writer-director, and a featurette.

Third Person is 136 minutes and rated 14A.

-John Corrado


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