Jason Bourne

Bourne

Jason Bourne
Starring Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones and Alicia Vikander
Directed by Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy)
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language

After a brief hiatus, Bourne (Damon) is back again and this time he remembers almost everything about his past. But when he discovers what brought him to his predicament in the first place, he goes after the person in charge (Jones).

If you are a big fan of the other Bourne films, you’ll probably enjoy this one. It has the same frenetic energy, high octane action and a familiar storyline. The acting isn’t fantastic, but it doesn’t have to be for this. It is exactly what it needs to be to serve the story.

The last couple of Bourne films that Paul Greengrass directed gave me a headache due to the obnoxious camera work. My guess is that the camera work is much the same here, but this time I had a nice Pinot Noir during the movie (thank you AMC theaters) and my nerves were much more able to handle it.

While the movie is entertaining, my biggest complaint is the originality. These Bourne films all seem like the same story to me, just in different locales. Bourne discovers a bit about himself, then he goes after the man responsible. Rinse, wash, repeat. They have deviated so far from the books at this point that it seems impossible to go back, so they just keep giving the audience what they think they want. Maybe it will work and maybe it won’t. At least it is once again a fun ride. After all, I go to Disneyland a lot and ride the same rides over and over again, year after year. Why should my movies be different. B-

New in Home Entertainment – July 26, 2016

barbershop

New in Home Entertainment

July 26, 2016

Barbershop: The Next Cut
Rated PG-13 for sexual material and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Taking a decade off from the franchise, Ice Cube and gang are back to cutting hair in his father’s barbershop, and as violence gets worse on the streets of Chicago, he is considering selling the shop to move to a ritzier, and thus safer, location. I’ve always considered this to be a franchise for a black audience, although it was fun to peak into their culture. To me, the first two films were sometimes funny, but with little meaning for me. This time however, the crew takes on real and relevant issues such as violent crime, gangs, poverty and politics. While they have little in the way of definitive answers, the discussions are fascinating and they are asking all of the right questions, all the while spitballing solutions. As a political commentary I found the movie to be quite brilliant. Many consider Ice Cube to be an entertainer that helped usher in the modern gang problem through his rap group NWA, but here he is a father trying to figure a way out, for both his own family and the country. I love a comedy that makes me think more than laugh. I also love it when a movie reminds me of how similar we all are, regardless of our personal cultures and histories. A

Hardcore Henry
Rated R for non stop bloody brutal violence and mayhem, language throughout, sexual content/nudity and drug use
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 48%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Told like a first person shooter video game, Henry is a man, reconstructed with robotics, who must go on a killing rampage to stay alive and rescue his girl. It is literally 90 minutes of hardcore action with the most excessive violence I have ever seen in a movie. While I am amazed at the filmmaking aspect and artistry, I honestly don’t think it has a place in our society, especially given so many recent events where killers attempt to take out random victims as quickly and maliciously as possible. C-

The New World: The Criterion Collection
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 62%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
While the 172 minutes extended cut of Terrence Malick’s beautiful vision of the John Smith/Pocahontas story has been available for some time now, Criterion has taken the production to a new level with this set which includes the extended cut as well as the original theatrical 135 minute cut and the 150 minute first cut, all remastered in HD. If you haven’t seen this remarkable film, it’s definitely worth a look. Told almost like a dream, this is the first of many films where Malick has teamed up with multiple Oscar winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity, Birdman and The Revenant), creating a magnificent and poetic story that gives the sense that you are exploring the American landscape with John Smith himself. Loaded with new features, it is also a must have for Malick fans, even if you already own previous versions. A

New in Home Entertainment – July 19, 2016

Batman Superman

New in Home Entertainment

July 19, 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
PG-13 for intense sequences and action throughout and some sensuality
Extended Cut Rated R sequences of violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 27%
Available on DVD, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D and 4K Ultra HD
With the huge success that Marvel has had with their Avengers franchise, DC has moved into that space with this new Justice League intro that poses an angry Batman who sees a threat in the newest disasters surrounding Superman – and thus tries to put an end to the alien hero. It’s a great idea for a story, but it is so poorly executed and so excessive that it becomes tedious rather than fun. This version goes even further with a redundant 3 hour long extended cut topped off with an R rating, as if the original wasn’t enough. Perhaps they should have given us a 2 hour version instead with a tighter, more coherent story? C

Elvis & Nixon
Rated R for some language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 77%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
One of the most iconic photos from the White House is that of Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon from 1970. Since all that is known of the visit is that Elvis just showed up one day, this movie makes up a scenario where a somewhat unstable King shows up offering to help Nixon put an end to the drug war. It’s a crazy, somewhat silly story that is entertaining for sure. It has some big laughs and some great performances by Kevin Spacey as Nixon and Michael Shannon as Elvis. B

Van Gogh
Rated R for sexuality and nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 63%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
French with English Subtitles
This early 90’s biopic about the famed impressionist by iconic French director Maurice Pialat follows the artist in his last 60 days before his tragic death at the age of 37. Vincent Van Gogh lived a hard life and you can’t expect a movie based solely on his life to come off as beautiful as his paintings. That’s why it’s up to to the filmmakers to present the beauty. And here they just didn’t do that. Pialat’s story is dry and lacks the very artistic vision you would expect from a project such as this. Overall it’s just a long, disappointing portrayal of a man who deserves so much more. C-

New in Home Entertainment – July 12, 2016

Everybody Wants Some

New in Home Entertainment

July 12, 2016

Everybody Wants Some!!
Rated R for language throughout, sexual content, drug use and some nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
In his first outing since his critical smash Boyhood, writer/director Richard Linklater brings us a film very similar in theme and format to his classic teen comedy Dazed and Confused. Rather than the last day of high school, here a group of college baseball players in San Marcos come together before the 1980 school years gets on its way. Watching the antics of a bunch of free-spirited athletes party and have fun is surely entertaining to watch. As you’d expect, the dialog is engaging and there’s lots of it. With more of a sense of nostalgia rather than relevance, the film lacks a compelling narrative, and thus lacks the depth of many of Linklater’s recent projects. But the charms of the film are still hard to resist. B

Boy & The World
Rated PG for thematic material and images
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Brazil has been getting a lot of bad press these days, but one good thing we’ve gotten from them is this little gem of a picture, which was recently nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film. This beautifully hand-drawn project tells the tale of a young boy who goes on a quest to reunite his family when his father leaves for the city to find work. The unique animation style is mesmerizing and while the storytelling seems simple, it should resonate with both adults and children. There is no dialog, aside from some occasional mumbles, so you won’t have to worry about subtitles getting in the way of your kids’ enjoyment. B+

Miracles from Heaven
Rated PG for thematic material, including accident and medical issues
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 44%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Jennifer Garner stars in this latest big-budget faith-based film, based on the true story and book by Christy Wilson Beam. Miracles tells the story of a Fort Worth family whose daughter develops a rare disease, leading her to experience a Heavenly journey when faced with death. Just like Sony’s handling of Heaven is For Real, this project is less Christian than most films of the genre, and chooses to be “spiritual” instead, glossing over much of the Christian message. But it does have its merits. The acting is rather good for a film of this type and while completely manipulative, as you’d expect, it still deals up some rather good drama and emotion. B-

The Mermaid
Rated R for violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
In Mandarin with English Subtitles
Writer/director Stephen Chow has given us some of the weirdest and most enjoyable foreign cinema over the years with hits such as Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer. Here he takes on environmental issues when a mermaid attempts to change the mind of a young billionaire who is being manipulated by outside forces to commit harm to ocean life. Of course all of this is done with Chow’s weird signature and humor, which is apparently enough to make this the highest grossing film in Chinese history. I love the strange, unique take Chow brings here, but honestly, the awful use of special effects distracts from the enjoyment. The film’s effects look like it was made 20 years ago rather than coming from a technologically advanced filmmaking culture. B-

My Golden Days
Rated R for some strong sexual content, graphic nudity, and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
Available on DVD
In French with English Subtitles
Mathieu Amalric (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) plays a middle-aged anthropologist who, while being detained coming back from a trip to Tajikistan, reminisces his youth through a series of flashbacks. The story is interesting but the drama, while I’m sure is authentic, is, for lack of a better word, French. For those into French cinema, there is gold at the end of the rainbow. For others, the film will be a huge, depressing turnoff. B-

New in Home Entertainment – June 28, 2016

Eye in the Sky

New in Home Entertainment

June 28, 2016

Eye in the Sky
Rated R for violent images and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
We hear a lot about drone warfare nowadays, but have very little narrative in regards to the stories behind the attacks. In this fictional but all-too-real story, Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman and Aaron Paul must decide whether or not to fire a hellfire missile when a terrorist cell in Africa is identified and proof is given that a suicide attack is imminent. Complicating the matter is a little girl selling bread just outside their house. Do they attack knowing they will kill the girl, or do they wait, which could possibly end the lives of dozens of people in a short while? The film takes place in real-time and the drama is riveting. It is not only an engaging motion picture but a great starter of conversations as well for those who have seen it. There is an authenticity here that allows the viewer to take either side of the argument and then question their decision in the end. A-

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Rated R for pervasive language, some sexual content, drugs use and violent war images
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 68%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Based on the memoir from the real-life reporter who spent five years in Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2004-2009, WTF stars Tina Fey as Kim Baker, a fish-out-of-water journalist sent to one of the most dangerous parts of the world to cover a chaotic war. You can tell that the filmmakers here were going for a modern-day Good Morning Vietnam and they were almost successful. The drama is real and there is a constant sense of danger, but the comedy only works to give relief from the tragedy. I did appreciate the production however and its authentic feel. We really don’t get a good sense of what it would be like to work a job like Baker’s and this film gives a great account to that experience. B

Kung Fu Panda 3
Rated PG for martial arts action and some mild rude humor
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%
Available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D
This third installment of the popular Kung Fu Panda has Po reuniting with his actual father and moving to the secret panda village to prepare them to battle a new and imposing force. While Jack Black is still entertaining, the storytelling feels tired and much of the plot is nonsensical. Still, there are some absolutely beautiful animated sequences, including the weird final battle, which are truly impressive. There’s very little here for adults to enjoy but the kids should eat it up. B-

Dr. Strangelove: The Criterion Collection
Rated PG
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 99%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 cold war masterpiece is given the Criterion treatment in this newly restored 4K digital transfer. Being that this title has seen a number of blu-ray releases over the years, the question most will ask is “should I buy it again?” If you are a huge fan and can’t wait to devour any and all things new about the film, then you might appreciate the new interviews. There are also a huge amount of special features from previous releases. I tried watching the new version against my old blu-ray and I couldn’t tell a noticeable difference, but I’m sure that there are those out there who will claim to see a huge improvement. Overall, its still a great film worth revisiting every couple of years, with a performance from Peter Sellers that is among the best in Hollywood history. A+

New in Home Entertainment – June 21, 2016

MIDNIGHT SPECIAL

New in Home Entertainment

June 21, 2016

Midnight Special
Rated PG-13 for some violence and action
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Mud and Take Shelter writer/director Jeff Nichols delivers here a phenomenal piece of understated sci-fi in this tale that follows a group of cultists, along with the U.S. government, who are all fighting to gain custody of a young boy with very special abilities. It’s a really terrific film with a great cast including Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirstin Dunst and Adam Driver. Because of its indie feel, it didn’t survive long at the box office, but hopefully it finds better success on Blu-ray and streaming. My only real problem with the film is the title which doesn’t seem to match its contents in the least. A-

The Wave
Rated R for some language and disaster images
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
In Norwegian with English subtitles (and a decent English dub for those of you who don’t like to read while watching)
It seems most disaster films have come strictly from Hollywood, but this recent Norway export finds a geologist who discovers the possibility that a large chunk of mountain might fall into a local body of water, which would inevitably cause an 80 meter wave to smash the local resort town which he lives in. While the film relies on some of the same old cliches you see in every disaster film, it still possesses an authenticity that sets it apart. B

Eddie the Eagle
Rated PG-13 for some suggestive material, partial nudity and smoking
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 79%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Loosely based on a true story, a young British kid who dreams of Olympic gold, but who has zero athletic ability, recruits an American coach (Hugh Jackman) to help him get to the olympics as a ski-jumper. The story isn’t as inspiring as it wants to be and it is full of script problems and cheesy dialog, but it does try really hard, just like the actual Eddie, and for that I have to give it credit. B-

Knight of Cups
Rated R for nudity, sexuality and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 46%
Director Terrence Malick (Tree of Life) once again assembles a tremendous cast (Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, etc…) for another project that is more art than storytelling. Here we find Bale, a soul-searching screenwriter who desperately tries to find love and self as he tries to avoid the pitfalls thrown at him in Los Angles and Vegas. While I really wanted to like it, and I’ll freely admit that I might with enough viewings, I can hardly recommend it to someone looking for a relaxing Redbox date night. The cinematography by multiple Oscar-winner Emmanuel Lubezki is such a perfect companion to Malick’s unusual filmmaking style and the dreamlike state of the film is certainly mesmerizing, but it’s not an easy project to take on. While I usually love this kind of film, I’m going to leave the complete digestion of it for a later day. C+

Finding Dory

finding-dory

Finding Dory
Starring the voices of Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks and Ed O’Neill
Directed by Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo)
Rated PG for mild thematic elements

First things first. Before the sequel to the Pixar mega hit begins to play, they offer up another short film, in this case Piper. Piper tells the story of a baby sandpiper who is urged by his mother to start finding his own food on the beach. Reluctant at first and very scared of the onslaught of ocean waves, the young bird learns from an unlikely friend how to face his fears and successfully locate dinner. If you get nothing from Dory, this film might just be worth the price of admission. It is mesmerizingly beautiful with a short and sweet story that touches your heart. It is truly one of, if not the best, short films Pixar has produced.

Then comes Dory. Following a year after the events of the 2003’s Finding Nemo, Dory becomes unsettled once she recovers memories of her parents she had not experienced prior. If you remember, Dory has issues with memory loss, and therefore these imprints are inconsistent but create a restlessness inside her, making her want to find her parents at a marine conservatory in Norther California. So off go Dory, Marlin and Nemo on an adventure to bring Dory to her home.

In the animation world, for the most part, there is good, and then there is Pixar good. The worst Pixar films are usually better than most other studios’ best and that is more or less the case here. I’m not sure Dory needed her own story, but they committed and the result is mixed.

In regards to the story, it is average at best. Pixar is known for its creativity and this is far from their creative best. In fact, it is really similar to Finding Nemo in its beats, and drags along at times because of this.

They were able to give us some new characters worth watching though. Dory makes many new friends along the way including a whale shark and a pilot whale, but it is the septipus (an octopus missing a tentacle) who steals the show and gives the project the many pushes it needs to keep it going.

The one thing you can count on every time with Pixar is its animation artistry. The entire film is absolutely stunning to look at and while I think they sometimes use this too much to overcompensate for the lack of story, they definitely put their best foot forward in that department.

The most surprising thing about Finding Dory is the recurring joke with the sea lions who ostracize their seemingly special needs colleague who wants to join them on their rock. While the scenes they are in get big laughs from the kids, I found it to be cruel and not indicative of the film’s spirit of acceptance regardless of handicap (after all, Nemo is respected and loved in spite of his one miniature fin).

Overall, Finding Dory will be a popular summer movie but just don’t expect one of their better performances. B

New in Home Entertainment – June 14, 2016

Cloverfield

New in Home Entertainment

June 14, 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane
Rated PG-13 for thematic material including frightening sequences of threat with some violence, and brief language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
A young woman is kidnapped by John Goodman after a car crash in rural Louisiana, but discovers that his intentions might not be evil when he explains that a war has destroyed the planet and the only safe place for them is inside their underground bunker. The whole film is a tense nail-biting experience, with the mood largely provided by Goodman in possibly my favorite of his many tremendous performances. So what does it have to do with Cloverfield? You’ll have to wait through it to find out but you will definitely have fun trying to figure it out. A-

The Young Messiah
Rated PG for some violence and thematic elements
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 50%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Based on the book by Anne Rice (yes the vampire lady Anne Rice) comes this story of seven-year-old Jesus as he and his family try to both keep him safe from Herod and help him come to terms with his divinity. The filmmakers did a smart thing adding an actor of Sean Bean’s talent as the Roman guard trying to find and kill the young Messiah, but the script and acting are a bit stale at times making the experience not as great as it could have been. Still, the production is solid and you can quickly tell that this is not your average faith-based film. In fact, it has some nice goosebump-inducing moments throughout. B

London Has Fallen
Rated R for strong violence and language throughout
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 25%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
This sequel to 2013’s Olympus Has Fallen brings back Aaron Eckhart as the president and Gerard Butler as his secret service sidekick who both get into the middle of a major war when a group of radical terrorists attack London during a state funeral for the British Prime Minister. The whole story seems forced to say the least and the perfect planning needed for such a farce is beyond fantasy. The action is big, as you’d expect, but as a political thriller it is reckless and dangerous as it feels like it is an excuse to just watch Americans kicking Muslim butt. When the film was originally released it was met controversy due to its timing around the 10th anniversary of the 2005 London attacks and with the recent events in Orlando, its DVD release is just as unfortunate in timing. C-

45 Years
Rated R for language and brief sexuality
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
In the week before her 45th wedding anniversary, Charlotte Rampling (nominated here for an Academy Award for her performance) learns that her husband’s first love was discovered, frozen and preserved in the Swiss Alps. While the film was highly praised by critics, I honestly found little of value here. Rampling is a tremendous actress but the story was not nearly convincing enough for me to care about her plight. I found more empathy for her husband who is justifiably distracted than I did for the jealous wife who just wants to think that she was the only thing in the world he had ever loved. C

New in Home Entertainment – June 7, 2016

Zootopia

New in Home Entertainment

June 7, 2016

Zootopia
Rated PG for some thematic elements, rude humor and action
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%
Available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D
In Disney’s latest box office smash animated film, a young female rabbit dreams of becoming a cop in the metropolis of Zootopia. When she is practically laughed off of the force due to her size, sex and species, she teams up with a sly fox in order to solve a major crime to prove her worth. You have to admire Disney for taking on yet another highly original concept and then introducing kids to the detective genre: a type of movie most kids are entirely unfamiliar with. The fact that it was a smash comes from the fact that they didn’t just put emphasis on characters and animation, but rather on story more than anything. It’s a gutsy move that paid huge dividends and will continue to for (most likely) decades to come. A

Hail, Caesar!
Rated PG-13 for some suggestive content and smoking
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
While critically a huge hit for the Coen Brothers, this film about communism in the golden age of Hollywood landed with a thud as big as its all-star cast, which includes Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson and Channing Tatum. For a Coen Brothers’ movie it is good but not great. It is full of quite a lot of really wonderful moments, most of which revolve around some fantastic song and dance numbers. The story, though, is tough to crack and probably requires multiple viewings to fully comprehend and/or appreciate. B

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
Rated R for strong combat violence throughout, bloody images, and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 51%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
This surprising box office misfire has Michael Bay (Transformers) telling the story of a contracted security team during the attacks in Benghazi which took several American lives including that of Ambassador Chris Stevens. This controversial story, first told by Mitchell Zuckoff in his book by the same name, doesn’t jump too much into the politics that immediately followed, but then again I would never go to a Michael Bay film for a history lesson, so even if it did make claims, it could hardly be convincing. Bay has a knack for delivering heart-pounding action in an overly-stylized manner, but here the b-roll goes overboard and I found his style to be completely annoying. C+

A War
Rated R for language and some war related images
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
In Danish with English Subtitles
In this fantastic war film from famed Danish director Tobias Lindholm (The Hunt, A Hijacking), a Danish military commander in Afghanistan makes a decision in the heat of battle to save one of his men’s lives, only to have to face trial back home for the civilian deaths occurring because of that decision. It’s part war drama and part courtroom drama and overall a thought-provoking journey demonstrating the thin line between ethical and moral decisions on the battlefield and how they effect everyone. A

New in Home Entertainment – May 31, 2016

Race

New in Home Entertainment

May 31, 2016

Race
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements including language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 62%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
The story of famed olympian Jesse Owens comes to life in this biopic that follows Jesse from his days as a college athlete to the point when he shocked the world at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. There’s no doubt that there is a great story here and with a supporting cast including Jason Sudeikis, Jeremy Irons and William Hurt you’d think that this could be an Oscar-bound pic. But Stephan James is just too dull in his representation of Jesse, even if Jesse might have been a dull personality. In addition, the pic has a movie-of-the-week quality, making it impossible for it to elevate to greatness. It’s a bronze level performance belonging to a gold story. B-

Triple 9
Rated R for strong violence and language throughout, drug use and some nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 53%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
In this Michael Mann wannabe crime drama, a group of dirty cops from Atlanta are blackmailed by the Russian mafia to execute an impossible heist. In order to distract the cops that are sure to be hot on their trail, they decide to manufacture a “999” police code by killing a cop on one side of town while staging their heist far away from the certain action brought on when calling in “officer down.” The movie has a lot going for it. The cast is phenomenal with Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Kate Winslet, Woody Harrelson, Aaron Paul and Norman Reedus, who I’m sure were all attracted to the idea of working with director John Hillcoat (The Proposition). Unfortunately the film is just too dark in both tone and aesthetic. The story tries to draw you in to care about good cop Affleck and criminal Ejiofor who while maybe a bad guy, is just trying to get his son back. But the weight of evil just seems to be too much and thus loses its ability to entertain. C+