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Contest: Win a Copy of Grandma on Blu-ray

February 10, 2016

Grandma GiveawayFeaturing one of the best roles of Lily Tomlin’s career, Grandma is a small gem that I’m happy to help support, so when Sony Pictures Classics reached out asking if I wanted to do a giveaway, I openly accepted the offer.

We’ve got two copies of the newly released Blu-ray to give away to a pair of lucky readers, all you’ve got to do is send an email to, with your full name and the subject line “Grandma Giveaway.”  Please note that we will only accept entries from those residing in Ontario, Canada, aged fourteen and up.

You can also leave us a comment below about why you want to win a copy of the movie or retweet this post for bonus entries, if you like.  The contest closes on February 29th, so send in those entries.  Good luck!

Blu-ray Release: Spectre

February 9, 2016

By John Corrado

Spectre Blu-rayThis week, MGM is releasing Spectre on Blu-ray, the 24th James Bond movie.  With a new head of security (Andrew Scott) threatening to enact overreaching government surveillance measures that would reduce the need for field agents, James Bond (Daniel Craig) goes rogue to track down a mysterious supervillian (Christoph Waltz) who is responsible for a series of international crimes.

Daniel Craig remains committed to the role, and director Sam Mendes starts the film off on the right note with a vibrant set piece staged during the Mexican Day of the Dead parade.  But Spectre is weighed down by several needless plot twists that strain to connect everything into a much larger multiverse, and the last act feels unfocused, not quite coming together in the end.

The film is still entertaining enough to watch, and there are some solid action sequences throughout, but Spectre ultimately lacks the grit of Casino Royale or the grace of Skyfall, the plot of which it directly follows, making this arguably Daniel Craig’s weakest outing as 007.  It’s still pretty good, and worth seeing for fans, but not great like its predecessor.  Even Sam Smith’s Oscar-nominated song “Writing’s On The Wall” is pretty underwhelming, especially when compared to Adele’s magnificent “Skyfall.”

The Blu-ray also includes an extended featurette on the opening sequence, and several video blogs.

Spectre is 148 minutes and rated PG.

Blu-ray Release: Grandma

February 9, 2016

By John Corrado

Grandma Blu-rayToday, Sony Pictures Classics is releasing the small gem Grandma on Blu-ray.  Elle Reid (Lily Tomlin) is an aging feminist and misanthropic poet, who is launched into one of the most eventful days of her life when her estranged granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) shows up, needing to borrow over six hundred dollars for an abortion, sending them both on a journey of old friends and past regrets.

For a progressive minded and refreshingly character driven dramedy, that offsets the many laughs with some genuinely moving twinges of bittersweetness, Grandma is surprisingly balanced and quietly remarkable in its approach, carried flawlessly by Lily Tomlin in one of the finest roles of her career.  You can read my full review right here.

The Blu-ray also includes commentary with director Paul Weitz and stars Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner and Sam Elliot, a Q&A with the director joined by Lily Tomlin and Sam Elliot, as well as a “making of” featurette.

Grandma is 78 minutes and rated 14A.

DVD Release: Touched By An Angel: The Complete Series

February 9, 2016

By John Corrado

Touched By An Angel DVDThis week, Paramount is releasing Touched By An Angel: The Complete Series on DVD, featuring all 214 episodes from the nine seasons of the popular faith-based drama that ran from 1994 to 2003.  The series follows a trio of angels, Tess (Della Resse), Monica (Roma Downey), and Andrew the “Angel of Death” (John Dye), who are sent to earth to spread the message of God’s love and help people in need.

Attracting an impressive amount of viewers during its initial run on CBS, and gaining a dedicated following over the years in syndication, the show remains a sentimental classic that has affected many with its spiritual themes and memorable characters.

Packaged in a mammoth 59 disc boxed set, Touched By An Angel: The Complete Series is a worthwhile collection for fans, that would also function as an impressive looking gift for someone.  Bonus features include interviews with head writer and executive producer Martha Williamson, and the featurette Touched By An Angel Says Farewell.

Review: The Lady in the Van

February 5, 2016

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The Lady in the Van PosterBringing Alan Bennet’s largely autobiographical stage play of the same name to the screen, The Lady in the Van recounts the “mostly true” story of Miss Shephard (Maggie Smith), an eccentric senior who lives in the back of a beat up old van.

The old vehicle ends parked in the suburban London driveway of the struggling writer (Alex Jennings), and a sort of mutual respect starts to form between the playwright and transient old woman over the fifteen years that the story spans.  But as more details of her mysterious and tragic backstory slowly come to be revealed, Miss Shephard grows increasingly erratic and paranoid.

Maggie Smith carries the film with a flat-out brilliant performance, transforming into her role through a feeble walk and tattered wardrobe.  She commands the screen in her portrayal of both the outwardly quirky qualities of her character, and the underlying emotional pain and mental illness of this deeply broken woman.  As the film starts to reveal more of the character’s past, her performance becomes gutting to watch.  This is among the veteran actress’s finest work, a showstopping and unforgettable turn that is reason enough to seek out The Lady in the Van.

Because of this, it’s almost just an added bonus that the film around her manages to be darkly funny and quietly moving, with some beautifully worded passages and a tone that is successful in its ambitions to both entertain us and break our hearts.  A small gem.

12th Annual IFMCA Award Nominees Announced Today

February 4, 2016

logoThe International Film Music Critics Association nominations were released this morning for excellence in film scoring in 2015.

Leading with four nominations each are veteran John Williams for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Ennio Morricone for The Hateful Eight.  Close behind with three noms each are Michael Giacchio for Inside Out, Jupiter Ascending, and Tomorrowland, and the late James Horner for the Chinese-language drama Wolf Totem.

Contending for Film Score of the Year are Cinderella by Patrick Doyle, The Hateful Eight by Ennio Morricone, Jupiter Ascending by Michael Giacchino, Star Wars: The Force Awakens by John Williams, and Wolf Totem by James Horner.

Michael Giacchino, James Horner, Ennio Morricone, and John Williams are joined by Daniel Pemberton in the Composer of the Year category.  Full film nominations are below, including Best Original Score for an Animated Feature and Film Music Composition of the Year.

For a complete nomination list, including TV and Video Games, be sure to check out the official press on the IFMCA’s website here.

– Erin Corrado Read more…

Review: Kung Fu Panda 3

February 4, 2016

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Kung Fu Panda 3 PosterThe latest tale in DreamWorks Animation’s surprisingly engaging saga, Kung Fu Panda 3 finds unlikely Dragon Warrior Po (Jack Black) reunited with his birth father (Bryan Cranston), and taken back to the secret panda village where he was born.

But all of China is being threatened by the jade sword-wielding Kai (J.K. Simmons), an ancient supernatural being who has returned to earth from the spirit realm, gaining power by stealing the chi of past kung fu warriors, including Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim).  This forces Po to channels his inner teacher and train his bumbling panda brethren to help defeat Kai, and protect Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) and the rest of the Furious Five.

This journey also finds Po struggling to find his own inner peace, as he learns how to tap into and embrace the almost meditative eating and sleeping rhythms of the panda lifestyle, while still maintaining a relationship with his adoptive goose father Mr. Ping (James Hong).  There are a few great sequences in the spirit world, and Kung Fu Panda 3 has some beautiful ideas about the way the energy of every living thing is connected.  The film is attuned with traditional Chinese beliefs, and full of spiritual undertones, introducing eastern philosophies about channeling and balancing our own chi.

The film does a good job of building upon the narrative of the first two, and co-directors Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Alessandro Carloni clearly have a lot of personal affection for these characters, crafting another brisk adventure for them.  At times, Kung Fu Panda 3 actually moves too fast, with the action and constant jokes sometimes not stopping long enough for the quieter moments to really sink in.  The climax arrives before we know it, and just as the film reaches an emotional crescendo, it ends with a big kung fu dance number that takes us right into the credits.  The target audience of kids won’t even notice these pacing problems, but they keep the film from being as strong overall as it could have been.

But in its best moments, Kung Fu Panda 3 is a solid threequel that allows us to spend more time in this always enjoyable world, with some of the most breathtaking animation of the series, once again mixing vibrant characters with lush backgrounds.  Delivering plenty of wit, including some amusing jokes about “panda asthma,” and enough touching moments and heartfelt themes to make it resonate with audiences of all ages, Kung Fu Panda 3 is as likeable and appealing as its cuddly title protagonist.

Blu-ray Release: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Signature Collection

February 2, 2016

By John Corrado

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Blu-rayToday, Disney is releasing their beloved 1937 classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs on Blu-ray, to kick off their new Signature Collection series.  Famously voiced by Adriana Caselotti, Snow White is a charming princess who escapes the clutches of the evil Queen (Lucilla La Verne), and finds herself in the forest home of seven lovable dwarfs.

Both as the first full length feature directed by Walt Disney, the success of which paved the way for the studio’s countless classics that followed, and also as their inaugural princess, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has an important place in animation and cinema history.

The film remains a beautifully animated and engaging work of art, that is just as entertaining and delightful nearly eighty years after its groundbreaking release in December 1937, filled with appealing characters and luscious images that still transport us into this fairy tale world.  For fans who don’t already have Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in their collections, or are looking to upgrade one of the older releases, this nicely packaged edition does justice to the film’s iconic legacy.

The Blu-ray also includes excerpts from an archival interview with Walt Disney himself, several new featurettes on the production of the film and its lasting legacy, a never before seen alternate sequence, as well as storyboarded deleted scenes, and many of the bonus features from the Diamond Edition release.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is 83 minutes and rated G.

Blu-ray Release: Bridge of Spies

February 2, 2016

By John Corrado

Bridge of Spies Blu-rayDreamWorks is releasing the excellent historical drama Bridge of Spies on Blu-ray today, the latest from director Steven Spielberg.  James Donovan (Tom Hanks) is a defence lawyer in Brooklyn who is hired to represent Rudolph Abel (Mark Rylance), a Russian agent arrested for espionage on home soil at the height of the Cold War, and negotiate his release in exchange for the freedom of two Americans.

Nominated for a total of six Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Mark Rylance’s nuanced and genuinely sympathetic performance, Bridge of Spies is an outstanding piece of classic moviemaking, with compelling characters and surprising emotional impact.  This was one of the finest prestige pictures of last year, and you can read our three views of the film right here.

The Blu-ray also includes four featurettes on the history behind the film.

Bridge of Spies is 141 minutes and rated PG.

Blu-ray Release: Zoolander

February 2, 2016

By John Corrado

Zoolander Blu-rayToday, Paramount is releasing the 2001 comedy Zoolander on Blu-ray.  Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) is a dimwitted male fashion model who loses Model of the Year to his rival Hansel (Owen Wilson), and is brainwashed by deranged designer Mugato (Will Ferrell) in a plot to assassinate the Prime Minister of Malaysia, who has passed child labour laws that threaten the sleazy garment industry.

Directed by Ben Stiller, and starring him in one of his most recognizable and iconic roles, expanded from a series of sketches, Zoolander has become somewhat of a cult classic over the years.  Although just as ridiculous and over the top as it sounds, many of the jokes still land with laughs, and it’s often a joy to watch just for the appealing performances, multiple cameos and hugely quotable dialogue.

The Blu-ray also includes commentary with Ben Stiller and writer Drake Sather and John Hamburg, deleted and extended scenes, outtakes, the original sketches from the VH1 Fashion Awards, footage from the rehearsals of the classic breakdance fight sequence, and more.  There’s also a brief new teaser for the long awaited sequel Zoolander 2, which opens on February 12th.

Zoolander is 89 minutes and rated 14A.


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