Saturday, November 30, 2013

Blu-ray Bin Weekend Sale and other updates

Here is the Weekend Sale:

1-Disc Used:
Arthur $6.99
Behind Enemy Lines $4.99
Chicken Little $4.99
The Expendables (Combo) $6.99
Hostage $4.99
LoTR: Fellowship $4.99 (Combo) (My review)
The Odd Life of Timothy Green $6.99
Patton $4.99
Planes, Trains & Automobiles $6.99
Rise of the Zombies $6.99
Warrior $6.99

3D-Disc Used:
Clash of the Titans 3D $4.99
Finding Nemo 3D $9.99
Lorax 3D $4.99
Up 3D $9.99

Brand New:
Godzilla (Mastered in 4K) $9.99
Hot Rod $6.99
Music Man $6.99
Southland Tales $6.99
Starship Troopers: Invasion $6.99

Used 1-Disc update: 
After Earth
Air America
Arlington Road
Bangkok Dangerous
Battlestar Galactica
Behind Enemy Lines
Brother Bear 1 & 2 Movie Collection
Chernobyl Diaries
The Conjuring
Dawn Rider
Dead Poets Society
The Dirty Dozen
Fire with Fire
The Green Mile
Hangover 3
I am Number 4 (Bilingual)
The Incredibles
Jesus Christ Superstar
Jonah Hex
L.A. Confidential
Little Mermaid
Man of Steel
Monsters Inc
Monsters University
Murder in the First
Pacific Rim
Pain & Gain
Planes, Trains & Automobiles
The Polar Express
Rise of the Zombies
The Rocketeer
The Rolling Stones: Sweet Summer Sun
Super Buddies
Terminator Salvation (Combo)
The Transporter
Thomas Crown Affair
V.I. Warshawski
World War Z
Wreck it Ralph 

Used 3D update:
Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away 3D
Finding Nemo 3D
The Great Gatsby
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 3D
John Carter 3D
Monsters Inc 3D
Monsters University 3D (3-Disc Combo)
Pacific Rim 3D (3-Disc Combo)
Star Trek 2: Into Darkness 3D (3-Disc Combo)
Toy Story 3 3D
Toy Story 3D
Up 3D
Wreck it Ralph 3D

Free US/Canadian shipping on all used items with code freeshipnov2013, and free shipping on anything at all when you spend $25 or more.

Return to index of every review on the site. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Theatrical Review)

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, 146 minutes
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci, Amanda Plummer, Jeffrey Wright and Lenny Kravitz

My review of The Hunger Games was a little negative due to the weak acting of the supporting cast, but that's vastly improved in Catching Fire. Director Francis Lawrence, who impressed me with I Am Legend, replaces Gary Ross, and I'm happy with the result. Lawrence will also direct the final two installments.

As in the opening movie, Jennifer Lawrence is the key ingredient. Remove her from the project and it just wouldn't be as good. She rightly received an Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook, and has to show a whole range of emotions in Catching Fire. You'll see what I mean during the opening scene in which she has a flashback to events we witnessed in the previous movie. If I had to list the most promising actresses under the age of 30, Lawrence would clearly be right at the top. In fact, there are few actresses of any generation that I would rather watch.

For the purposes of this review, I'm going to assume that you have seen the first installment. If you haven't, don't attempt to see Catching Fire before you know how the story begins. You'll miss some of the references for sure.

We learned in The Hunger Games that victorious tributes could look forward to a better life. Hunger and poverty were supposed to be a thing of the past, and the fear of being asked to fight for survival could be removed forever. But it wouldn't be much of a sequel if Katniss just rode around waving to the crowds, would it? President Snow (Sutherland) devises a scheme to get her in a new battle, only this time it's bigger and better than ever. Without giving away too much, let's just say that there are no tributes that are easy to kill in this sequel; those involved are generally older and more experienced.

The different tributes aren't the only characters who are new to Catching Fire. Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) and his questionable facial hair has been replaced by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays Head Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee. Hoffman gives a typical multifaceted performance, and the motivations of his character are hard to guess. During a conversation with Katniss, he claims to have volunteered for the position of Head Gamemaker, even though the life expectancy is not great. Does that mean that Seneca Crane wasn't the only one who was punished for disappointing President Snow in the past? Have other tributes caused trouble for Snow?

The main difference between this sequel and the first installment is the depth of story and the quality of the acting. We learn a lot more about Katniss. Who does she love, and to what degree? What sacrifices must she make in her life to fit in and protect the people she loves. If you think about it, we all do similar things in our own lives. We socialize for the sake of our families or our careers, when a lot of the time we would rather spend our free moments pursuing things that we enjoy. Many of us give up things for our children or ailing relatives. We can identify with Katniss, even though we won't be asked to fight to the death. As for the acting, Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Amanda Plummer, and others, give the characters more depth than in the first movie. We are also given more information about Haymitch (Harrelson) and Effie (Banks). I wonder how much of this is due to Simon Beaufoy's part in the screenplay? He's on a roll after writing Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.

One of the best scenes comes early in the movie as Katniss and Peeta deviate from their prepared agenda during a tour of the other districts. Instead of mouthing the carefully prepared scripts, they choose to make a more meaningful contribution. I won't reveal what happens, but it's a memorable scene.

The Capitol is portrayed as being particularly evil in this sequel, just in case you were in any doubt. Its dubious agenda is enforced by stormtroopers who look like they stepped straight out of Star Wars. Although some of the first 90 minutes is fairly predictable fare, I welcomed the chance to explore this world and its characters in more depth. It's hard to care about someone if you don't understand who they are, or what they are fighting for. Francis Lawrence did a great job of avoiding clumsy exposition in I Am Legend, and he avoids that trap in Catching Fire too. Instead of spelling out the reason for every little action, he allows scenes to naturally unfold so that we can see their significance for ourselves.

Fans of action might be disappointed with Catching Fire. It takes a long time for the tributes to make it into the arena, and once there, they rely more on alliances than before. This story is more about teamwork and figuring out who is good or evil than it is about slaughtering everyone in sight. It's a richer story overall.

Another reason for disappointment might be the abrupt ending. Like The Lord of the Rings, the story is split into several parts, and this second installment of four won't have a conclusion that neatly resolves all of the conflict. For that, you'll need to see the next two movies.

I think that Francis Lawrence has improved upon the first installment significantly, and I'll be seeing how things pan out. I might even read Suzanne Collins' trilogy before I see Mockingjay Part 1 next year.

Overall score 4/5

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Blu-ray Bin Competition, Weekend Sale, and Used updates - November 23, 2013

Exciting news this week, as Boris from Blu-ray Bin has donated a brand new copy of After Earth for one lucky reader of this post. The winner will be chosen at random. To enter, send a PM on Twitter (@IntheFrame1) or email me ( the two-part answer to the following question:

In which movie did Will Smith first team up with Jaden Smith, and what popular device did Will Smith's character use during a taxi ride to secure an interview for a job?

The contest closes at 10:00 am Saturday November 30.

Here is the Weekend Sale:

Brand New:
Discovery Atlas: China $4.99
2001: A Space Odyssey $6.99 (My review)
Total Recall (2012) 4K Edition $16.99

1-Disc Used:
Cocktail $6.99
Amadeus (Best of Warner Bros) $6.99
Eyes Wide Shut $6.99
Hocus Pocus (Bilingual) $6.99
Pixar Short Films Voume 2 (Bilingual) $6.99
Kung Fu Panda Holiday $6.99
Braveheart $6.99
Scooby-Doo! Camp Scare $6.99
Scooby-Doo! Blue Falcon $6.99

Used 1-Disc update: 
007 - Casino Royale
007 - Quantum of Solace
2001: A Space Odyssey (Best of Warner Bros)
The 40-Year-Old Virgin
88 Minutes
African Queen
After Earth
Amadeus (Best of Warner Bros.)
Avatar (3-Disc SE)
Behind the Candelabra
Blade 2
Blade 3
Cinderella II/Cinderella III Double Feature
Conan - The Destroyer
Cowboys and Aliens
Dead Calm
Dead Man Down
The East
End of Watch
Eyes Wide Shut
Hangover III
Hocus Pocus
The Ides of March (Combo)
The Incredible Melting Man
IP Man
Iron Sky (Combo)
Kingdom of Heaven
A Late Quartet
Little Mermaid
Live and Let Die
Men in Black
Monsters University (Bilingual)
The Order
Pacific Rim
The Pianist
Point of No Return
Rolling Stones: Sweet Summer Sun
The Secret World of Arrietty
The Talking Heads: Stop Making Sense
Terminator 2
The Three Musketeers (Combo)
Total Recall (2012) 3-Disc Set
Treasure Planet
Universal Soldier: The Return/Second in Command Double Feature
Wreck it Ralph

Used 3D update: 
The Avengers 3D
Finding Nemo 3D
Monsters Inc 3D
Paranorman 3D (Combo)
Step Up 3D
Toy Story 3D
Up 3D

Free US/Canadian shipping on all used items with code freeshipnov2013, and free shipping on anything at all when you spend $25 or more.

Return to index of every review on the site.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Blu-ray Bin Weekend Sale and Used update - November 16, 2013

In addition to the items listed below, all new Blu-rays under $20 qualify for the following discounts:

Get 5% OFF when you spend between $1.00 - $24.99
Get 10% OFF when you spend between $25.00 - $49.99
Get 15% OFF when you spend between $50.00 - $74.99
Get 20% OFF when you spend between $75.00 - $99.99
Get 25% OFF when you spend over $100.00

Discount will automatically be deducted on checkout!

Here is the Weekend Sale:

The 13th Warrior (Region Free, German Import, Forced Subtitles) $19.99
The Butterfly Effect/The Butterfly Effect 2 $6.99
Food Inc./Sharkwater $6.99

Used/Used 1-Disc:
Easy A $6.99
Horrible Bosses $6.99
Nikita Season 1 (Used) $14.99
Paul $6.99
Salt $6.99 (My review)
Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause
The Thing $6.99
War of the Worlds $6.99

Used 1-Disc update:
Great White Shark
Hangover Part 3
Jesus Christ Superstar - Live Arena Tour
Monster High - 13 Wishes
Pacific Rim
The Place Beyond the Pines
The Sword in the Stone (Bilingual)
Jesus Christ Superstar - Live Arena Tour

Used 3D update:
G.I. Joe Retaliation 3D (3-Disc Combo)
Iron Man 3 3D (3-Disc Combo)
The Little Mermaid (Bilingual) 3D (3-Disc Combo)
Pacific Rim 3D (3-Disc Combo)
Star Trek 2: Into Darkness 3D (3-Disc Combo) (My review)

$4.99 Used 1-Disc update:
The Last Airbender
Mass Effect
Open Road

Free US/Canadian shipping on all used items with code freeshipnov2013, and free shipping on anything at all when you spend $25 or more.

Return to index of every review on the site.  

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Blu-Ray Bin Weekend Sale - Nov 9, 2013

Every used movie in the store is on sale this week:

Get 5% OFF when you spend between $1.00 - $24.99
Get 10% OFF when you spend between $25.00 - $49.99
Get 15% OFF when you spend between $50.00 - $74.99
Get 20% OFF when you spend between $75.00 - $99.99
Get 25% OFF when you spend over $100.00

Discount will automatically be deducted on checkout!

Used Steel Books are excluded from this Promo!

Steel Book Sale (New and Used): 

Get 25% OFF any Blu-ray Steel Book when you buy 3 or more.

Discount will automatically be deducted on checkout!

Free US/Canadian shipping on all used items with code freeshipnov2013, and free shipping on anything at all when you spend $25 or more.

Used 1-Disc update:

2001 Maniacs
The Big Lebowski (My review)
Black Christmas (2006)
Brokeback Mountain
The Call
Cowboys and Aliens
Dante's Peak/Daylight (Double Feature)
Hangover Part 3
A History of Violence
Homeland Season 1
It Could Happen to You
Life of Pi (My review)
The Little Mermaid
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
Master & Commander
Modern Family Season 1
Moneyball (My review)
Pacific Rim
The Purge
Shark Week
Skyfall (Combo) (My review)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
The Trotsky
The Wizard of Oz
World War Z 

G.I. Joe Retaliation 3D (3-Disc Combo)
The Great Gatsby 3D (3-Disc Combo)
Jurassic Park 3D (3-Disc Combo)
Pacific Rim 3D (3-Disc Combo)
PoTC: On Stranger Tides 3D (3-Disc Combo)
Star Trek 2: Into Darkness 3D (3-Disc Combo) (My review)
The Wizard of Oz 3D (3-Disc Combo)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Blu-Ray Bin Weekend Sale and Used updates - Nov 2, 2013

Here is the Weekend Sale:

1-Disc Used:
The Preacher's Wife $6.99
Little Miss Sunshine $6.99
Nacho Libre $6.99
Fun Size $6.99
The International $6.99
Columbus Circle $6.99
The Back-up Plan $6.99
15 Minutes $6.99
Batman Returns $7.99

Brand New:
Battle of the Warriors $6.99
Starship Troopers: Invasion $9.99
I Spit on Your Grave 2 $14.99

$4.99 Section Additions:
007 - License to Kill

Deal of the Day:
The Private Lives of Pippa Lee

Used 1-Disc update: 
The Bourne Legacy
Celeste and Jesse Forever
Curse of Chucky (Combo Pack)
Dead in Tombstone (Combo Pack)
The Great Gatsby (2013)(Combo Pack)
Great White Shark
The Hangover Part 3
A Haunted House
The Hunger Games (2-Disc)
The Internship (Combo Pack)
The Little Mermaid
Pacific Rim
Playing for Keeps
R.I.P.D. (Combo Pack)
Robin Hood (Disney)
Slap Shot
Vehicle 19
World War Z (Combo Pack) 

Used update: 
The Avengers 3D (4-Disc Combo)
Captain America 3D (3-Disc Combo)
Paranorman 3D (2-Disc Combo)
Thor 3D (3-Disc Combo)
The Wizard of Oz 3D

Sunday Used 1-Disc additions: 
Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls
Alien Resurrection
Angles and Demons (2-Disc)
Bad Teacher
Behind the Candelabra
Being John Malkovich (UK Import)
Body of Lies/Three Kings Double Feature
Bruce Almighty
The Da Vinci Code (2-Disc)
Dante's Peak
Ed Wood
Embrace of the Vampire (1995)
Embrace of the Vampire (2013) (Combo)
Friday Night Lights/The Express Double Feature
Fright Night 2: New Blood (Combo)
The Gambler (Combo)
The Great Gatsby (2013)
The Hangover Part III (Combo)
Hart's War
Hocus Pocus (Bilingual)
In the Name of the King
In the Name of the King 2
The Incredible Hulk
Iron Man 2
The Karate Kid
The Last House on the Left (1972)
Lifeforce (Combo)
Madonna - MDNA World Tour
A Man Apart/Running Scared Double Feature
The Mist/1408 Double Feature
My Neighbor Totoro
The Naked Gun
Nothing Left to Fear (Combo)
Ocean's Eleven
Ocean's Thirteen
Ocean's Twelve
Olympus Has Fallen (Combo)
The Paperboy
Peter Pan (Disney)
Pocahontas Double Feature
Role Models
Season of the Witch
Seven Psychopaths
Shout at the Devil (Combo)
Spider-man 2
Spider-man 3
Super 8
Tank Girl (Combo)
There's Something about Mary
The Tree of Life
Tron Legacy
Without a Paddle
World Trade Center
X2: X-Men United (2-Disc)
X-Men (2-Disc)
X-Men: The Last Stand (2-Disc)

Sunday 3D additions: 
Brave 3D
Coraline 3D (UK Import)
Dolphin Tale 3D
Finding Nemo 3D (Bilingual)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 3D
Monsters Inc 3D
Tangled 3D
Up 3D (Bilingual)

Use code freeshipnov2013 for free shipping on all used items (no minimum purchase).

Free shipping on anything to the US and Canada when you spend $25.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Set Back (Short film)

Set Back (2011)
Short, Crime, 9 minutes
Directed by Bulent Ozdemir
Starring Andrew Dowbiggin and Joanna Howden

If you have 8 minutes and 21 seconds to spare, you have time to check out a short film by Bulent Ozdemir.

Here's the link.

Set Back is a psychological thriller which features a series of events leading to a murder. It opens by showing us a man walking down the street. He's carrying a brief case and looks as if he's on his way to work. A foreign tourist approaches him and says something unexpected. Did she really say it, or did he misunderstand what she said?

As we follow the man, he becomes more and more agitated, and each person he meets seems to increase the sense of unease for both him and us.

The film makes me think of Following and Memento, from Christopher Nolan, and also Videdrome (David Cronenberg) and Lost Highway (David Lynch). Director Bulent Ozmedir is almost certainly a fan of one or all of those mentioned, and employs similar techniques to both draw us in and make us uncomfortable.

Like Lost Highway, we are so attached to the main character that it seems as if the things being portrayed are happening to us. Surely we can't be responsible for the events which slowly unfold like a nightmare?

It's hard to accurately judge anyone's work after seeing just a few minutes of film, but it definitely held my interest and made me wonder how this story might be developed. It's worth checking out if you like short films or if you're an aspiring filmmaker yourself.

Overall score 3.5/5

You can also follow Bulent Ozdemir on Twitter:  @RumbleGum

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Ender's Game (Theatrical Review)

Ender's Game (2013)
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, 114 minutes
Directed by Gavin Hood
Starring Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Ben Kingsley and Viola Davis

I'm a big reader of science fiction, and Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game series is probably my favorite. The only things that come close are Hyperion by Dan Simmons and Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga. I've read Ender's Game more than 10 times, including two or three occasions on which I finished it in a single sitting. One of my college papers is based on the novel and is published on Card's website.

Yes, I'm a fan.

So, as you can imagine, I have been looking forward to an Ender's Game movie long before I ever thought it might happen. For me, it had the potential to be the best science fiction movie ever made, if done well. After assembling a strong cast, my expectations could not have been higher as I sat down to watch the IMAX version today.

The basic premise is that an alien race, known as the Formics or Buggers, invaded Earth fifty years ago. The invading fleet was defeated, but another attack is expected. In order to be ready to face a species that learns from its mistakes, the International Fleet has come up with a strategy: A program was established to observe the behavior of young children, hoping that the best young geniuses of the time would be able to become the top military strategists by the time they were needed. Ender Wiggin was chosen as one of the trainees.

The movie deviates considerably from the book, but it's necessary. I am not here to tell you why the book is better, I'm here to tell you whether Ender's Game works as a movie. However, I must explain some of the key differences. In the book, Ender begins his training at the age of six, while all of the trainees in the movie appear to be 15 or older. I understand that it would be impossible to find dozens of 6-year-old actors capable of carrying this story. Also, the sequence of events is different. Bean, who is a key character, meets Ender immediately, rather than a few years into his training. Ender's training is supposed to take around eight years, but it seems to happen in months.

The biggest weakness of the movie is the way the battle training is condensed. Again, I realize that few people would want to watch four hours of training, but some of the suspense is missing because so little time is devoted to key events. Some events in the book seem unfair to Ender, but without the background information, anyone who hasn't read the book will miss the significance. Whenever I read Ender's Game, I become Ender Wiggin and experience the satisfaction of his achievements. I'm glad to say that I experienced similar feelings during the movie.

IMDB claims that the movie is an action movie, but that's not the case. Don't go into this expecting battle sequences or laser fights. They do exist, but not in the form you might expect. I am actually impressed that Hollywood didn't ruin the movie by trying to include too much action.

Ender's Game is essentially about leadership, and why individuals choose to follow certain people. Everyone in the school is a genius, but Ender is a good leader because he gains the trust, loyalty, and even love of his followers. The book is full of tactics, and we see Ender and his army discover and develop skills over the course of several years. The armies are comprised of 40 soldiers who are typically split into four Toons of 10 soldiers during battle. I doubt a casual viewer will come away from this movie even knowing what a Toon is. We certainly aren't shown how Ender's Dragon Army uses tactics that are completely new. On the plus side, the ending could not have been better, and I was excited to see an important scene present and handled well.

So, does this movie work at all?

As someone who knows all of the background to Ender's story, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing it come alive on the big screen. The acting was good and the special effects spectacular, although my Kiwi friend reliably informs me that Ben Kingsley butchered the accent. Most of the key events in the book are touched upon, and a fan of the series will automatically catch the references and fill in the blanks. A complete newcomer to the story will probably have a good time, but come away wondering why Ender's Game is often regarded as the best science fiction book ever written.

I hope that the movie will be successful enough to spawn a sequel. Speaker for the Dead is a much deeper story, and shows what happens to Ender after the war. However, with some people boycotting the movie due to their dislike of Card's politics, I'm not sure whether a sequel will be possible.

I'll be adding Ender's Game to my collection as soon as it is released on Blu-ray, but it would be wrong of me to automatically give it 5/5 just because I love the books. That said, it's a good attempt to make a coherent story out of very difficult material. It's hard to show people thinking. If you do like the movie and haven't read the book, I urge you to do so. I imagine it would considerably enhance any future viewings.

By the way, the trailer gives away almost everything.

Overall score 4/5

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