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dvd / blu-ray Review

Ghost Squad (DVD): Review

The Film

Ghost Squad, a feel good story of right triumphing over wrong, and having the underdogs come out on top. A lesson in being one’s true self, wrapped up in a fun story for younger viewers.

Three friends accept a challenge by the town bullies to stay an entire night in a creepy house, on Halloween. The house however is said to be haunted.

Aimed at the younger viewers, Ghost Squad is devoid of any horror or scary scenes. There is a clear lesson to be learnt, as the friend brave the house, and dig deep to build up enough courage to see the challenge through to the end.

The story is easy to follow, without any major plot twists, so it will be easy for the younger viewer to follow. There is an aspect of humour to the story too, which would help offset any of the more tense moments.

The scares, while having an impact on the characters, should not have any impact on most of the younger viewers (the film does carry a PG rating for horror).

The acting is slightly reminiscent of an afternoon tween show on the television, and it is doubtful that it will hold the attention of any older audience, but is sure to keep the younger ones entertained for an afternoon.

Ghost Squad is a fun film for the younger viewers.

Disc And Bonus Features

The disc is encoded at a decent average bitrate, allowing for it to be scaled in hardware or software to a larger screen, or a higher resolution, should the viewer desire.

Sound is presented in a 5.1 mix, that while doesn’t make extensive use of the surround channels, it does add to the on-screen action at times.

There are unfortunately no bonus features on the disc.

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Film Review

Pixels: Review

For all those who enjoyed the innocent childhood of video games in the 80’s, Pixels will bring back some fond memories.

Aliens on another world misinterpret video footage of kids playing arcade games, and take it as a challenge to war. After a surprise attack, the people of Earth need to rely on the most unlikely group of heroes to protect the planet.

The film is thoroughly entertaining, and full of laughs. The humour is also not the usual you would associate with Adam Sandler (who plays Brenner, the hero of the story), but the humour is rather more linked to knowing about the video games represented in the story. It is also this reliance on these games that would cause a lot of the humour to go over the heads of any viewers who are not familiar with the whole video game culture and it’s history, and one is left wondering if the film was aimed at a younger audience due to the simplicity of the plot, or if it were aimed at an older audience, that they may reminisce the days gone by.

Pixels is still a very fun film though, and despite the lack of twists to the plot, it provides a great escape, and some light hearted laughter.

The action is over the top, but not violent, and draws its visual inspiration from the video gaming imagery that appears throughout the film.

Sandler is very much subdued in his role as Brenner, and while this is a matter of taste, it means his brand of comedy doesn’t overshadow the rest of the characters. Kevin James makes for an interesting US President, wish Michelle Monaghan as the love interest and support, and last but not least Peter Dinklage and Josh Gad as Brenner’s fellow gamers. The cast certainly enjoyed their roles, and this is evident. Now that remains is will the various audiences enjoy them just as much.

Pixels opens 24 July 2015 in South African cinemas.

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dvd / blu-ray Review

American Sniper (DVD): Review

The Film

The film that was the talk of the town for a moment, now to own, and add to your movie collection.

While most people knew the story, and tragic outcome going in to the cinema, and there are virtually no plot spoilers left to guess at, the action sequences still thrill and excite, paying homage to the marines who fought, and the legend Chris Kyle himself.

Read the full SAMDB American Sniper review.

Disc And Bonus Features

The disc is encoded at a high bitrate, with no visible onscreen artefacts. Sound is presented in a 5.1 mix which comes into it’s own during the action sequences. Navigation is basic, but adequate.

One Soldier’s Story – The Journey Of American Sniper: This is the only bonus feature on the DVD, sharing not only the story of whey Chris Kyle became a legend, but why the filmmakers felt it important to bring his story to the screen, not too long after his book was published.

This is not just a short video with a few clips and quotes by cast and crew, but a lengthy, inside look behind the scenes, at the locations where the film was shot, and the processes that the writers, director and cast went through in order to ensure they were true to the real story, aided by Chris’s wife Taya.

American Sniper is available now, to purchase on disc in South Africa.

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dvd / blu-ray Review

Into The Woods (BluRay): Review

The Film

Into The Woods, a phrase that belongs in a fairytale. Yet, in this case, it’s not one, but several tales, tall taking place in and around the woods. We have Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy), Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), and young Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) (the very one who climbed that beanstalk). And let’s not forget the two princes (Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen).

A witch (Meryl Streep) sends a childless baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) on a quest to obtain a list of items, in order to reverse a curse placed on their family. The stories all head deeper and deeper into the woods, eventually culminating with all the characters needing to work together, in order to save the land from The Giant (Frances de la Tour) and defeat The Witch.

Into The Woods is a musical. the dialogue and narration are sung, with several choreographed moments where the forward momentum of the story is set aside for a short while. The upbeat tempo is sure to get feet tapping, and many a viewer will be left with these songs filling their heads for days after.

Those of the younger generation that enjoy singing will love the musical aspect, although at a few minutes past three hours, they are likely to watch in segments if they have too much energy.

The film is a thoroughly enthralling tale, that will have you totally absorbed for hours with its songs, intertwined story lines and exceptionally talented cast and stunning sets. This is certainly a film that any enthusiast or lover of fairytales should have in their collection.

Disc And Bonus Features

There is never a doubt, that a disc by Disney, is always done right. Into The Woods is no exception. The disc is encoded at a high bitrate, meaning there are no visible artefacts on screen, even in fast paced scenes, with fine detail. Sound is presented in a 7.1 soundtrack. Although a little surprising that there is not an option for Atmos, this mix makes extensive use of the surrounds, expanding the sound field, and on screen actions, and drawing the viewer into the story.

One slight issue, is that the navigation menu presented on the disc is comprised of only icons, which do not give a clear indication of their function, leaving one to guess, and try each one, before finding the bonus features. This does post an amount of frustration, not knowing if you have selected the correct option you desire, or should you wish to go back at a later stage to view a feature, you need to navigate only via icon or thumbnail.

The disc begins with a few trailers, but you are able to skip these if you so wish.

 

One bonus feature that is sure to delight the younger viewers, and provide great value as they watch the disc over and over, is that ability to play the film with all song lyrics displayed on screen.

For the movie aficionado and filmmakers, there is a very informative commentary provided by Rob Marshall (director), John DeLuca (producer) and Marc Platt (producer).

There’s Something About Into The Woods: the origin of the desire to create the film from the stage play, and the emotion and work involved in bringing this to life. This feature contains some interesting behind the scenes footage, with interviews with cast and crew, detailing the origin of the film, and the journeys travelled by all to culminate in this screen production.

Another featurette details the singing aspect of each character and actor, sharing insights into the musical performance aspect of the film.

Also included are a number of small video clips, explaining the story behind brining the stage play of Into The Woods to the screen, some insight into the role of The Woods in linking each characters story, and of course the eye catching and intricate costumes worn be the cast.

The plethora of extras on the Into The Woods disc is sure to appeal to any varied interest, and adds a ton of value to the disc.

Into The Woods is now available for purchase, on disc, in South Africa.

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dvd / blu-ray Review

McFarland USA (DVD): Review

The Film

Presented by Disney Pictures, McFarland USA tells the true story of a cross country coach, Jim White, from a small town in California, that takes a group of school kids and forms a cross country team.

As Coach White and the kids learn, and grown, both physically and emotionally, so the team goes from strength to strength, leading to them becoming contenders for the championship.

McFarland USA is one of those gems that will leave you pondering your own self, what is a priority to you, and what everything in your life means to you. It shows us that no matter who you are, and what hand you are dealt in life, you can find a way to pull yourself out of any negative situation, finding something to level the playing fields, leading to a victory.

This is definitely a feel good movie, and a nod to all those who have worked hard to better themselves, and to all those who have sacrificed something to help others.

A compelling story, well told, and completely engrossing. McFarland USA is sure to be loved by a wide rang of viewers, and while not preaching to the audience, it does indeed contain a lesson for all.

Disc And Bonus Features

As most DVD’s these days, the disc is encoded at a high bitrate. This gives the option to scale up to a larger screen, or even to a higher resolution, should hardware or software allow. There are no visible artefacts on screen either. The soundtrack is presented in a 5.1 mix, but the nature of the story content does not lend itself to use of the surround channels.

The extra features include a music video “Juntos” and a short video clip with some of the cast and crew explaining the desire to create a film based on the story of the McFarland team.

McFarland USA is available now, to purchase on disc, in South Africa.