New in Home Entertainment – February 14, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

February 14, 2017

Arrival
Rated PG-13 for brief strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
Every few years we get a really great, original science fiction film that makes you think, delivers a meaningful social commentary and completely takes us by surprise. This year that film is Arrival, which just landed eight Oscar nominations including best picture and director. The story follows a scenario where alien ships have appeared all over the planet, and when the U.S. military can’t find a way to communicate with the aliens on board, they enlist the help of a linguistics professor (Amy Adams) to figure out their intentions. As Adams attempts to find a way to decipher the alien language, we, as an audience, attempt to decipher what the film is really telling us. If you are looking for a mindless action pic, this for sure isn’t it. But you might just find yourself feeling a lot smarter after having experienced it. A-

The Edge of Seventeen
Rated R for sexual content, language and some drinking – all involving teens
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
Before you blow off this coming-of-age comedy, as most people did when it was in theaters, please consider giving it a look. Yes its about another awkward girl (Hailee Steinfeld) who gets herself into extremely awkward situations, but rather than the lighthearted PG-13 world you would most likely see in most films of this genre, Edge prefers to be edgy with what feels like a true vibe of the way modern teenagers act, talk and feel. Much more like Juno than American Pie, the film puts you through a lot of discomfort but provides a resolution that will put your soul at ease and help you better understand the teenage human. If none of that interests you, at least check it out for Woody Harrelson’s well-written and even better-performed sarcastic school teacher who gives you hope that there are educators who are more concerned with turning teens into functioning and successful adults rather than merely aiming for a test score. A-

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Rated R for language throughout, some war violence, sexual content, and brief drug use
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 45%
Until very deep into 2016, the film that was most likely headed toward best picture was this war movie directed by Life of Pi’s Ang Lee. The story comes from the point of view of a 19-year-old private who, along with his fellow soldiers, are being honored at a Texas football game for unique bravery. As the moments at the game move by, Lynn flashbacks at his time in Iraq, showing the stark contrast to the life he has to live while home. The battle scenes are few but powerful, providing a background that, by themselves, are riveting. But the scenes in Texas are almost just unbearable, filled with lousy acting and inorganic writing, making it almost look like the direction was at fault. I say almost because I just can’t imagine Lee directing a film that is this flat. This story has been told before, but much, much better than this. C-

Beavis and Butt-Head: The Complete Collection
I’m not going to tell you that there is anything good that could come from watching over 1000 minutes of these loser teens making stupid commentaries on 90s pop culture, but if you’re like me, you’ll do it anyway. Mike Judge’s MTV iconic classic is getting this huge release with hours and hours of content, including their feature length film “Beavis and Butt-Head Do America,” in order to give you an overdose of nostalgia that makes you better appreciate that you eventually grew up – if you did. B

New in Home Entertainment – February 7, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

February 7, 2016

Loving
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
In writer/director Jeff Nichols’s latest drama, Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga portray the real-life story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple in 1967 Virginia who had to fight a brave legal battle (that would end at the Supreme Court) just to stay married. Nichols’s gentle take on the subjects is masterful as are the inspiring performances by Negga (Oscar and Golden Globe nominated) and Edgerton (Golden Globe nominated). I was surprised, not at the outcome of the story, but by the fact that it wasn’t a tear jerker but rather just a touching film about love as presented by a couple with the most ironic of last names. Much like the film Hidden Figures, this period pic is both historical and relevant in that while it seems that we have progressed quite a bit, we still have a long, long way to go. A-
Trolls
Rated PG for some mild rude humor
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 74%
I was certain going in that the very thought of a movie that gives a story to the famous and rather nostalgic dolls would have me cringing in my seat. I’m happy to say that the folks at Dreamworks Animation did an impressive job of creating a fascinating universe for the creatures to live in and the animation, when looked at with a high-res picture is absolutely mesmerizing. And then to add Justin Timberlake as the main character with his already top hit “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” leading the way? Well that was just smart. There’s nothing here that will blow you away, but the creativity on display is easy to appreciate and even easier to enjoy. B

Desierto
Rated R for strong violence and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 60%
In this thriller from “Gravity” co-writer Jonás Cuarón, a group of Latinos, including Gael García Bernal, run into a sharp-shooting vigilante (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan in a role similar to his portrayal of Negan on The Walking Dead) who wants to do what the Border Patrol won’t do: pick them off one by one with his rifle. While this film was in production long before talk of a wall became part of the American political campaign, the movie’s release now is timely, although rather sensationalized. There have been many instances of vigilante killings along the border but the violence and scares here make the movie appear more like a snuff film, or at the very least a monster movie, rather than a political statement. Still, the subject gives food for thought as it demonstrates that the people trying to find a way to make a better life for themselves are actual human beings and not an invasion of rats that need to be gotten rid of, or in this case, exterminated. B-

New in Home Entertainment – January 31, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

January 31, 2017

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some bloody images, language and thematic elements
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 37%
In number two of Tom Cruise’s portrayal of the famous character from Lee Child’s best-selling book series, Reacher finds himself being hunted by the military while simultaneously investigating a young girl who might be his daughter. While I hated the first Reacher film, I found this one pardonable, mostly due to the far superior pacing, no doubt provided by director Edward Zwick (Glory). Unfortunately, the screenplay is a mess with a plot that feels like it wants you not to try to figure it out so that you won’t recognize its obvious problems. Full disclosure – I still have an issue with Cruise’s notorious real life which I have to admit gets in the way of my full enjoyment, although I really do try to keep this fair. C+

Mastermind
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, some language and violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 32%
Zach Galifianakis once again plays your average boring guy, who upon falling for a crazy co-worker played by Kristen Wiig, is talked into committing a heist. Director Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite) does have a unique style, but the story never seems to take off, mostly because it feels like a big pile of been-there-done-that with great comedic actors playing one-dimensional caricatures that aren’t as funny as the writers think they are. This movie was supposed to be released a year before it was and the final product shows why the studio heads tried to find the perfect time to dump it. C-

New in Home Entertainment – January 24, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

January 24, 2017

The Handmaiden
NR (But most likely would have been NC-17 if rated)
Language: Korean with English Subtitles
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
Park Chan-wook, the brilliant South Korean director behind Thirst and Stoker, gives us this sexy new crime drama set in Korea under Japanese colonial rule. The story follows a conniving “count” who wants to marry a rich young girl only to have her committed so he can steal her inheritance. To help him with his plan, he hires a fellow con artist to become her handmaiden for some inside assistance. For much of the first act, I began to wonder if Chan-wook has gone Merchant Ivory on us; but alas, once the story gets going, it evolves into one of his most ferociously twisted tales yet, full of multiple unexpected turns, savage violence and extremely graphic sex. That being said, if you are even slightly turned off by the last sentence, you need to leave this one alone. Then again, if you are a Chan-wook fan already or just love great movies of any kind regardless of subject, you might just come to love this one. A-

The Monster
Rated R for language and some violence/terror
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 78%
Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks) is a divorced mother who makes a late night trek to drive her young daughter to live with her father when their car crashes and they are stranded on a desolate highway with a creature that won’t let them escape. While it looks on the outside like an outright monster movie, the film plays surprisingly like an R Rated version of the similarly titled “A Monster Calls,” where the monster may or may not be real, but the pain and coping mechanism very much are. In this case, the mother struggles with alcoholism, which has greatly impacted her daughter. In spite of reasonably good reviews, the film is basically straight to home entertainment, probably because it is too smart for the genre it is pretending to be in. While there is plenty of gore and some decent scares, the film makes you question everything you’ve see – after you see it. B

New in Home Entertainment – January 17, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

January 17, 2016

The Girl on the Train
Rated R for violence, sexual content, language and nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 43%
Based on the best-selling novel by Paula Hawkins, this thriller hit theaters full-steam with great anticipation only to be met with a head-on collision by a disappointing box office. The story follows Emily Blunt as a young woman whose commute has her fixated on the life of a beautiful girl in a neighborhood she passes every day. Of course there is a lot of darkness in her own past that intertwines when she blacks out one night. The film has potential to be a fairly decent mystery but with the script written for the sake of the twist, the story feels mundane rather than innovative. It tries so hard to be Gone Girl but when the fuse burns up, we end up with a dud rather than fireworks. Sorry – I didn’t want to rack my brain for another more fitting train metaphor. C-

Keeping Up with the Joneses
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, action/violence and brief strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 19%
Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher are your average boring couple who are thrust into international espionage when spies Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot move into the house next door. I’m not sure if there is potential for success anywhere near this project, but its execution failed miserably as the movie lacks the comedy and adventure it promises. I love the casting of the four leads, but the missing elements (including script, directing and chemistry) bring the film to Razzie depths. D

Zero Days
Rated PG-13 for some strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%
If you want an in-depth, and I mean really in-depth, look at cyber warfare, check out this newest doc from Alex Gibney, the Academy Award winning filmmaker behind Taxi to the Dark Side and Going Clear. In this rather frightening film, Gibney shows his prediction of how the next World War will be fought with the real-life examples of the US and Israel meddling with the Iranian nuclear program as well as a whistle-blower describing the devastating effects cyber attacks can (and very well could) possess in the future. If you think this type of warfare ends with hacking an election, this film will give you a sobering look at the reality we don’t really understand yet. A-

New in Home Entertainment – January 10, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

January 10, 2016

Denial
Rated PG-13 for thematic material and brief strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 81%
In 1996, British Holocaust denier and Nazi scholar David Irving sued American Historian Deborah Lipstadt (and her publishing company) for libel, forcing her to go on trial in London to prove that the Holocaust actually occurred. This remarkable true story is masterfully acted with Rachel Weisz as Lipstadt and Timothy Spalling as Irving, providing an almost non-fiction feel to the gripping legal drama. It raises important questions such as how, in modern day, can we prove what is true and not true in our history books. And given today’s current political climate and the rise of a white nationalist movement, the film feels incredibly, and painfully, relevant.  A-

The Accountant
Rated R for strong violence and language throughout
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 51%
Ben Affleck stars in this action thriller about an autistic child who grows up to be a talented accountant and an even more talented assassin. The intriguing parts of the film dwell on autism and how autistic children can assimilate into productive adults. The sad thing about it is the shift to criminal behavior with a story that makes little sense. I can appreciate the plot twist, and Affleck’s performance is decent, but a lot of other great talent is wasted with bad dialog and throw-away parts.  C+

Jerry Maguire: 20th Anniversary Edition
Rated R for language and sensuality
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%
Twenty years ago, Tom Cruise showed us the money (more than a quarter billion worldwide) with this sweet and smart romantic comedy about a sports agent who suffers from a paradigm shift. Introducing us to Renee Zellweger and Cuba Gooding Jr. (who won the Oscar for his role), the film turned out to be a truly impactful emotional experience for much of its audience. You probably already own this one, so they’ve included a ton of extras to incentivize you to buy again. The most important of these features is the full soundtrack on CD and a booklet entitled “The Things We Think and Do Not Say: The Future of Our Business” laying out the words of Maguire that got him into such trouble in the beginning of the film.  A

New in Home Entertainment – December 20, 2016

New in Home Entertainment

December 20, 2016

Sully
Rated PG-13 for some peril and brief strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%
In director Clint Eastwood’s latest biopic, Tom Hanks stars as American hero Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the commercial pilot who successfully landed his plane on the Hudson River when things went suddenly wrong during take off. As much a character study as a direct reenactment of the events that took place, the film is terrifically executed and completely engaging. Hanks is at his best with his spot-on impersonation as he convincingly becomes Sully. While the ending trial sequence feels not only rushed but also slightly contrived, it doesn’t get in the way of telling this remarkable story. B+

Storks
Rated PG for mild action and some thematic elements
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 63%
In this somewhat forgettable Warner Brothers animated flick, storks have gone from delivering babies to delivering packages (think Amazon biological drones). When a baby girl is inadvertently created for delivery, a stork and a human go on a mission to secretly deliver her before the head of the company finds out. Of course the film is cute. You’d expect that with babies everywhere. Unfortunately, the plot is non-sensical and much of the project is a complete mess. Almost saving the day though are two wolves, voiced by Key and Peele, who upon discovering the baby, use their wolf pack to hilariously take her from her delivery team. In essence, these two come close to rescuing the film in the process. B-

If There’s a Hell Below
Not Rated but contains adult language and violence
This ultra-low-budget indie that hit the film festival circuit in 2016 is getting its day on DVD this week. While the misleading title suggests a horror film, the pic is actually a decent little thriller about a whistle blower who is paranoid about talking to a journalist, only to find out she has a right to be so. It’s not about the information in her head, as you don’t really ever get a glimpse of that side of the story. Instead it is an exercise in tension that is worth checking out when you need an excuse to bite your nails. B-

Bridget Jones’s Baby
Rated R for language, sex references and some nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 77%
It’s been a long while since Bridget (or Renee Zellweger) has graced the screen. But now she’s back and after getting pregnant by sleeping with 2 different men (Patrick Dempsey and Colin Firth) in a relatively short period of time. She has to somehow keep both on the hook in the hope of snagging the actual father after a paternity test can be performed once the baby is born. The movie has its moments with a few funny bits that bring hope to the project, but overall it’s a dull and mindless shadow of the first film, although maybe slightly better than the second. What was once a clever take on Pride and Prejudice has been reduced to an unsuccessful franchise tryst. C-

New in Entertainment – December 13, 2016

suicide-squad

New in Home Entertainment

December 13, 2016

Suicide Squad
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action throughout, disturbing behavior, suggestive content and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 26%
After the dismal reviews of Batman V Superman, DC was looking for a hit with its story about the U.S. government hiring a group of super villains to take on a new threat facing the country. They even promised us the best Joker of all time in Jared Leto. But not even the good performances by Will Smith and Margot Robbie could save this mess of a script by the typically dependable David Ayer who both wrote and directed. The main villain was laughable as an all-powerful goddess and that great Joker they promised us? All style and no substance. Perhaps if slightly recast in some roles and an R rating stamped on the label, this could have been the fun ride we all thought we were promised, but as is, even with this new extended unrated cut, the film is yet another disappointing DC output. C-

Southside with You
Rated PG-13 for brief strong language, smoking, a violent image and a drug reference
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
In the style of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise films, Southside is a surprisingly refreshing story about what it could have been like if you took a camera on the first date between Barrack and Michelle Obama. While many won’t even consider this as a potential rental, if you can put politics aside I can’t imagine you won’t enjoy it. There’s no talk of healthcare or foreign policy, but rather just two intelligent people trying to figure out their place in the world and who they’d like to spend their lives with. It’s a sweet but smart talkie and a perfect date movie. A-

Ben-Hur
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and disturbing images
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 25%
For those of you who have heard of the original 1959 film by the same title, which went on to win 11 Academy Awards including best picture, but didn’t want to invest the four hours of your life necessary to experience it, here’s a new two-hour version that offers plenty of chariot racing and a sort-of revenge tale. Giving the film some credibility is Morgan Freeman, completely out of place and not hiding it. Ultimately the film fails because it lacks energy and life. Where the previous edition had wow-factor galore and a chariot race decades ahead of its time in regards to special effects, this film staggers and suffers under its own attempt to outdo a masterpiece. C-

Phantasm: Remastered
Rated R for nudity, violence, and intense scenes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 70%
I was seven when this classic horror film first hit theaters, and when I finally got to see it a few years later I remember that little ball scaring the daylights out of me. Now, more than 30 years later, J.J. Abrams has done a fantastic HD restoration of the original print, hoping to scare people again with one of his favorite movies. Much of what I found scary then is simply funny now, but the nostalgia alone is worth taking this out for another ride. B-

New in Home Entertainment – December 6, 2016

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New in Home Entertainment

December 6, 2016

Jason Bourne
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 56%
Director Paul Greengrass and actor Matt Damon are back together again, after defecting from the last Bourne movie, and this time things are exactly the same as always. Jason, still on the run, remembers a little bit more about who he is and goes after the man responsible, this time around that would be Tommy Lee Jones. While completely repetitive in regards to the franchise, the film still serves up quality action with superb pacing, but with nauseating camera work. If you are in for more mindless entertainment – you’re good here. If you’re looking for an intelligent action thriller, you are completely out of luck. C+

The Secret Life of Pets
Rated PG for action and some rude humor
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 75%
Universal’s original new animated feature pits a pair of dogs who upon getting lost, must find their way back to their owners apartment. Mostly funny, largely in part to the tremendous voice talents of Louis C.K and Kevin Hart, the film provides some really laughter-inducing entertainment that can be appreciated by adults while loved by children. It’s a bit predictable as you’d probably expect, but with some nice surprises thrown in throughout. It’s not even close to being the best animated film this year, but its flaws are forgivable. B

Don’t Think Twice
Rated R for language and some drug use
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 99%
Writer, director and star Mike Birbiglia here leads a New York City comedy troupe whose camaraderie is put to the test when when one of the members (Keegan-Michael Key) earns a spot on an SNL-like weekly television show. While not as funny as you think it will be, the movie has an authenticity that you won’t get from a film trying constantly to be hilarious. It shows the struggle to keep comedy as an art form while at the same time dealing with its daily disappointments when fame and money don’t follow along. While the end of the film does seem a bit over-scripted as it tries to reign in the story, it still remains lovable at heart. B+

The Hollars
Rated PG-13 for brief language and some thematic material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 43%
John Krasinski directs and stars in this comedy about a young man who must come home to deal with his family upon learning about his mother’s brain tumor. The talented cast, including Margo Martindale, Richard Jenkins, Anna Kendrick and Sharlto Copley, just can’t make this film what it should be. There are some very nice moments during the film, but it screams low-budget independent in a bad way with plot holes and errors throughout. It hopes to win you over with its heart but doesn’t have the legs to get there. C+

New in Home Entertainment – November 22, 2016

kubo

New in Home Entertainment

November 22, 2016

Kubo and the Two Strings
Rated PG for thematic elements, scary images, action and peril
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
This stunning stop-motion animated film from Focus follows the tale of young boy who must hide from and eventually battle his aunts and grandfather with only his magical musical instrument, a monkey and a giant warrior beetle to protect him. The tale is mesmerizingly creative from start to finish and is an overall artistic masterpiece. In a year filled with award-worthy animated films, I will predict that Kubo is the only film that might be able to compete with Moana for the Oscar. A

War Dogs
Rated R for language throughout, drug use and some sexual references
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 60%
From Todd Phillips, director of all three Hangover films, comes this “based-on-a-true-story” film about two young and ambitious punks (Jonah Hill and Miles Teller) who become arms dealers when the discover how easy it is to get rich off the U.S. government. The movie has its funny moments for sure, but while it is sold as a comedy, it is mainly a drama meant to shed light on our corrupt system and the abuses capable within it. While I found much of the subject intriguing, I was certainly not entertained as I found myself annoyed at both the prospects of the film being both possibly true and sensationalized. C+

Chicken People
Not Rated
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
In a country with diverse passions and interests, its always fun and refreshing to come across a documentary exploring weird subjects such as this documentary where folks come together to compete to see who has raised the most perfect chicken. I learned more about poultry and poultry competitions than I ever thought I would or ever wanted to. In the cynical and contentious place our country is in right now, its good to see our quirkiness come through in such a majestic and entertaining manner. A-

The Squid and the Whale: Criterion Edition
Rated R for strong sexual content, graphic dialogue and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
Getting the Criterion treatment this week is Noah Baumbach’s 2005 indie favorite about an eccentric Brooklyn family that is left in disrepair after an ugly separation. The performances from Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney and Anna Paquin are terrific but most memorable is the star-making awkwardness of Jesse Eisenberg whose horribly misguided decisions bring mostly empathy rather than disgust. It’s a thoughtfully strange little film with a ton of extras, as is usual with Criterion’s releases. B+