// Simple Sitemap plugin CSS

Blu Tuesday: Trance, Welcome to the Punch and More

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on Facebook and Twitter with your friends.


WHAT: With his gambling debt piling up, art auctioneer Simon (James McAvoy) teams up with a group of thieves to steal a Francisco Goya masterpiece. But during the robbery, Simon suffers a blow to his head, and in order to figure out where he stashed the painting, the gang’s leader (Vincent Cassel) hires a hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson) to dig deep into Simon’s psyche and help jog his memory.

WHY: Adapted from the 2001 TV movie of the same name, “Trance” is so thinly plotted and riddled with gaps in logic that it’s to the credit of director Danny Boyle and his cast (including a surprisingly good Rosario Dawson) that they’re able to keep things interesting. Though Boyle masks a lot of the script’s problems with some nifty visuals and the same kinetic energy prevalent in his other films, the frantic pace only lasts so long before the story grinds to a halt, suffocated by a never-ending series of twists and red herrings that makes it almost impossible to discern what’s real. That’s obviously the point, but by the time the movie arrives at its climactic ending, it becomes one twist too many, and instead of a brilliant mind-bender, it feels like a cheap trick written by someone trying to outdo “Inception.” The movie is ultimately saved by Boyle’s ingenuity and some strong performances, but for a film with such a unique premise, “Trance” should have left a more lasting impression.

EXTRAS: There are six production featurettes (including one on the making of the film), deleted scenes, a retrospective on director Danny Boyle and the short film “Eugene.”


“Welcome to the Punch”

WHAT: After failing to capture master thief Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong) several years earlier, detective Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy) is given a second chance to bring down the elusive criminal when Sternwood returns to London following his son’s death, only to uncover a much deeper conspiracy within his own police department.

WHY:Welcome to the Punch” has garnered a few comparisons to Michael Mann’s cat-and-mouse thriller “Heat,” but the movie pales in comparison. Though it boasts a similar visual style to a lot of Mann’s films, the tension is almost non-existent, and despite an interesting dynamic between McAvoy’s cop and Strong’s robber, it’s never fully explored, nor does it have the same allure of seeing Hollywood heavyweights like Robert De Niro and Al Pacino face off. This is a movie in dire need of a better script, because not only does it lack personality, but it’s too complicated for its own ogod – a tangled mess of half-baked ideas and telegraphed plot twists that never properly explains anything. It’s a generic crime thriller in just about every way, and although it looks great and features a couple of nifty gunfights, the film is ultimately a case of style over substance, and one that its top-notch British ensemble is unable to rescue.

EXTRAS: The single-disc release is a little light on bonus material, but it does include a making-of featurette and interviews with the cast and crew.


Read the rest of this entry »


The Light from the TV Shows: Speaking of Summer Series

Once upon a time, the summer was the designated dumping ground for all of the crap that the networks had lying around that they didn’t deem good enough to put on during the regular season, but now…well, actually, there’s still a bit of that going on, but viewers are also starting to get some unexpectedly strong material as well. I’ve been bombarded with screeners over the past few weeks, so many that I haven’t been able to keep up with them all, but I’ve managed to pull together a list of 10 shows that I have seen and found at least worth giving a try, if only for one episode to see if the first taste is enough to keep you coming back for more.



Wizards vs. Aliens

(The Hub)

As a rule, any series which features Russell T. Davies, the man who finally succeeded in selling “Doctor Who” to Americans, as part of its creative team is a series that’s at least worth giving a shot, even if it is on The Hub. In fact, let’s back up a second: The Hub actually has a quite a lot of fun programming for the hipper young-adult set, so no one should be dismissing the network out of hand as being merely a channel for kids. Plus, hello, the show’s called “Wizards vs. Aliens.” How is that not going to be awesome? Granted, it’s still intended for a younger demographic, a la Davie’s “Who” spin-off, “The Sarah Jane Adventures,” so you shouldn’t go in expecting “Torchwood” levels of darkness, but if you go in with the right mindset, you’ll find it’s a lot of fun for the whole family.


Read the rest of this entry »


The Light from the TV Shows: Take a trip to “Graceland,” USA’s surprisingly dark new drama

If you read last week’s column about “The Glades,” where I talked about my trip to Miami a few months back and followed it with a Q&A with the cast members, you may also recall that I actually visited the set of two series on that expedition. The other, “Graceland,” makes its long awaited debut on the USA Network this evening, and in this case, calling it “long-awaited” isn’t just a case of blowing smoke.


I actually had an opportunity to screen the pilot back in January—actually, it might even have been December, come to think of it—in advance of attending the winter TCA press tour, and I was surprised at how dark the tone of the show was. I mean, don’t get me wrong, this is still USA, not HBO, so it’s not like the second coming of “The Wire” or anything, but it’s definitely not full of the same kind of quick and witty banter that’s become a hallmark of the network’s series…in a good way.

Here’s how the network describes “Graceland,” in case you’re starting to get curious:

Inspired by true events, USA’s new one-hour drama, “Graceland,” is about the adrenaline-fueled world of a diverse group of undercover agents whose lies are their lives.

“Graceland” is a place where nothing is what it seems and everyone has a secret. From the outside, this idyllic beachfront property is inhabited by a group of young roommates. Inside, a vastly different world is exposed: one that sustains itself through a complex web of lies. “Graceland” delves into the lives of an elusive group of undercover agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), who live and operate under one roof. When forced to give up any shred of normalcy and the question of trust is a matter of life or death, the house becomes their sanctuary, their “Graceland.”

Graduating at the top of his class, FBI rookie, Mike Warren anticipates a traditional DC desk job when he’s unexpectedly shipped to “Graceland.”  Immediately thrown into his first undercover assignment, he relies heavily on the guidance of legendary FBI agent and mentor Paul Briggs.  Briggs is an unusually Zen senior agent who notoriously hates the rule book and will go to any length to protect “Graceland” from the outside world. The ensemble cast features strong-willed FBI agent Catherine “Charlie” DeMarco, quick-tempered Customs agent Dale Jakes, intuitive and merciless DEA Agent Paige Arkin, and fun-loving prankster FBI agent Joe “Johnny” Tuturro.

Are you interested enough to watch a trailer for the show? I’m betting you are, but I’ll you what I’m gonna do: I’m just gonna embed a trailer right below this paragraph, and either you’ll watch it or you won’t. But it ain’t gonna cost you nothing to click on it, so…

Ha. I knew you couldn’t resist.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Light from the TV Shows: It’s Time to Take Another Trip to “The Glades”

Although I’ve been a regular attendee of the Television Critics Association press tour in my stead as a writer and senior editor for Bullz-Eye.com, I don’t really get the opportunity to attend all that many press junkets, so on those occasions when I do find myself on the sets of various TV shows, I tend to kind of bask in the uniqueness of the experience. (Maybe it’s just because I have a history of being easily amused, but I find that, no matter how many sets you visit, if you don’t do it regularly, it still manages to be a pretty cool experience every single time.)

Earlier this year, I was invited on a rare joint junket between two different networks—A&E and USA—to do meet-and-greets and Q&As with the casts of “The Glades,” which returns to A&E this evening for its fourth season, and “Graceland,” a new USA drama which bows on June 6. Both series film in the general vicinity of Miami, so the first day of the expedition was spent on the set of the latter, with the next day dedicated to the former. Rest assured that I’ll be filling you in on “Graceland” soon enough, but for the moment, let’s focus on “The Glades,” shall we?


Given that the series is, as noted, about to kick off its fourth season, there’s a fair chance you’re already familiar with “The Glades,” but for those who either only know of it or haven’t even got that much history with it, here’s the nutshell summary from the A&E homepage for the series:

Jim Longworth (Matt Passmore) is an attractive and brilliant Chicago homicide detective with a reputation for being difficult. When his captain wrongfully accuses him of sleeping with his wife and shoots him, he is exiled and forced to relocate. He lands in the sleepy, middle-of-nowhere town of Palm Glade, outside of the Florida Everglades, where sunshine and golf are plentiful and crime is seemingly at a minimum. But Longworth soon finds out this town isn’t quite as idyllic as he originally thought, when murders keep piling up. Each case pulls Longworth off the golf course and reluctantly into his element as one of the sharpest homicide detectives to wear a badge.

Season 4 is packed with even more mystery, intrigue, and fun. From haunted plantations to rum-soaked shot girls and even a zombie apocalypse, Longworth is once again solving murders that can only happen in the Sunshine State. This season also promises more drama on the personal front for Longworth, Carlos (Carlos Gomez), Manus (Michelle Hurd), and Daniel (Jordan Wall) as friends and relatives from near and far arrive on the scene. But the big question remains to be answered as Longworth waits for Callie (Kiele Sanchez) to accept his marriage proposal, or not.

If I’m to be honest, the pointed use of the word “attractive” as a descriptor of the main character in any series immediately makes me suspicious that it’s something that’s going to tickle my fancy—I can’t recall any occasion when I’ve been sold on a show because I was assured in advance that its cast was going to be good-looking—but “The Glades” has been a hard-to-dislike show since its debut. Yeah, I know, that’s kind of damning it with faint praise, but I really do intend it as a compliment: there are a lot of series that are very easy to dislike, but the show’s cast is pretty darned likeable across the board. Okay, maybe the aforementioned Jim Longworth is a bit too smug for his own good sometimes, but, hey, when you’re that attractive and brilliant…

Read the rest of this entry »