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


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
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


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


New in Home Entertainment

June 7, 2016

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


New in Home Entertainment

May 31, 2016

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+

New in Home Entertainment – May 24, 2016


New in Home Entertainment

May 24, 2016

Rated PG-13 for Biblical violence including some disturbing images
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 52%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
From Sony and Waterworld director Kevin Reynolds comes this faith based Biblical epic about a Roman Tribune (Shakespeare In Love’s Joseph Fiennes) who is tasked by Pontius Pilate to investigate the disappearance of the body of Jesus shortly after his crucifixion. While the story of Christ has been told many different times and in many different ways, none has ever been approached from the point of view of the Romans left to try to put the pieces together. It’s a brilliant take on the greatest story ever told and the project was expertly executed. While the budget was modest, the film sure doesn’t look it. The production is top notch and the majority of the cast are made up of very solid actors. Overall I just loved that Fiennes was placed to be our eyes and ears, witnessing an event that was on its way to reshape the world. The whole thing is an enlightening experience to anyone who wants it to be one. As an aside, I’ve always thought that most Christian or faith-based films are made exclusively for Christians and are usually lower in quality productions with poor in-your-face scripting and even worse acting. That is not the case with Risen where the script, production and acting are all on a much higher level and the film can be watched, interpreted and appreciated by Christians and non-Christians alike. A-

The Finest Hours
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of peril
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 63%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
In 1952 a daring Coast Guard crew set out on a rescue mission to bring back a group of men whose ship was destroyed in a blizzard. It is one of the most famous rescues in Coast Guard history and in this family-friendly rescue film from Disney, the tale is immortalized with Chris Pine and a talented group of actors behind it. Unfortunately, even though the film is less than two hours, it feels much, much longer. The back story and personal life of the hero feels forced and the sequences with the crew on the destroyed ship aren’t nearly developed enough, giving you the feeling that a lot of time is wasted. You get the sense that a great rescue took place but I lost interest long before it did. C

How to Be Single
Rated R for sexual content and strong language throughout
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 49%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
The latest in the multiple story comedy sub-genre is this tale of four single women in various life stages living single in NYC. Starring Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Leslie Mann and Alison Brie, the film has some very funny moments but the project pales in comparison to the far superior Sex and the City and Girls franchises which serve up much better images of practically the same tales. C+

Zoolander 2
Rated PG-13 crude and sexual content, a scene of exaggerated violence, and brief strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 24%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
15 years after the events of the surprisingly good Zoolander, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Will Ferrell are back for another round of fashion thriller comedy madness. This time out, Derek Zoolander (Stiller) comes out of hiding and is forced to team up with his former partner/now rival Hansel (Wilson), to once again stop the evil plot of the fashion uber-villain Mugatu (Ferrell). I’m not sure anyone was screaming for another Zoolander film but one was churned out anyway only to be met with a lousy box office and rightfully lousy reviews. The jokes are stale (fifteen years stale to be exact), and the whole movie is completely irrelevant with hardly a laugh to be found anywhere.  F

New in Home Entertainment – May 17, 2016


New in Home Entertainment

May 17, 2016

Rated R for strong violence and language throughout, sexual content and graphic nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%
Available on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray
Ever since the short appearance of Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool in the awful 2009 X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie, fans have been screaming for the famous dead super hero to get his own stand alone film. It took a lot of bravery from the folks at Marvel and Twentieth Century Fox to give the fans what they wanted, and even more guts to not kidify it by making it a very hard R. This first in what will no doubt be a multi-film franchise tells the genesis story of urban mercenary Wade Wilson who, upon getting a very short cancer death sentence, signs up to have a secret agency turn him into a mutant. Of course the agency doesn’t do so in a nice way and he eventually dies and comes back as Deadpool, hell-bent on getting revenge. From the amazingly funny opening credits to the Ferris Bueller tag, the film proves itself to be one of the most audacious and creative films of the year – and more than that – lots of fun. To say this is the best work Ryan Reynolds has ever done is an understatement. He is one of the most talented actors working in Hollywood today but his film choices, for the most part, have been dismal. This, however, was the role he was born to play and he is spectacular in it. The second viewing isn’t as good as the first and the lack of budget shows, but overall this turns out to be one of Marvel’s best super hero films to date and the start of what will hopefully be a thriving franchise full of quirks and surprises. A-

The Witch
Rated R for disturbing violent content and graphic nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Welcome to my very first non-review. Out today is apparently one of the scariest films in years, but honestly I just couldn’t force myself to watch it. As part of its marketing strategy, the studio releasing the film, A24, decided to hold several screenings with the help of The Satanic Temple (an atheist group that follows the teachings of Satan – still not sure on that one) after they came out fully endorsing it. I’m sure A24 thought that this co-marketing might attract some into the theater with the illusion of authenticity but I stayed very much away. The film follows a Puritan family in the early 1600s who experience evil events on the frontier. In my mind there are some things that you can’t unsee and apparently this film is full of those moments. I never want to put myself in that position. So rather than ignore – I thought I’d put out this non-review as a warning. As a critic I have to weed through a lot of garbage and while occasionally I enjoy a good scary movie, I purposefully don’t subject myself to certain films. So many people these days just go to Red Box and pick a movie because of its cover, not knowing what they are getting into until it’s too late. At least if you’ve read this you will have some context of what lies within the box.

New in Home Entertainment – May 10, 2016

Where to Invade

New in Home Entertainment

May 10, 2016

Where to Invade Next
Rated R for language , some violent images, drug use and brief graphic nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 77%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
The title of Michael Moore’s latest documentary gives the immediate thought that he will be tearing into America’s obsession with acting as world police, but what we get here is very different. Moore goes to countries all over the world and finds one thing they do better than the U.S., explores the subject, and then claims that one thing in the name of America. It is a smart, observant, touching and patriotic film – or as many would like to call it: liberal propaganda. When he ties it all up at the end, he makes an extremely convincing argument which will bring many to tears. A-

Rated PG-13 for brief strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 61%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
This being one of my favorite films of 2015, I was shocked to see its icy reception from critics and awards groups. This highly stylized biopic from David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) has Jennifer Lawrence starring as QVC and Home Shopping Network queen Joy Mangano and the struggle that took her from rags to riches. It is an absolutely fantastic example of what it takes to be a woman entrepreneur in America and the story and the way it was told had me deeply inspired and empathetic. The performances are terrific from this wildly talented cast including Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper and the amazing score and soundtrack, which they didn’t even campaign for, drove the film forward with a crazy yet clear progression. Again, I am shocked that this film wasn’t a major winner at the box office and a player in last year’s award race and I hope it finds a better home on peoples’ televisions. A

New in Home Entertainment – May 3, 2016


New in Home Entertainment

May 3, 2016

East Side Sushi
Rated PG for brief violence, suggestive content and mild language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
Available on DVD
Ultra low-budgeted films, most of the time, feel like ultra low-budgeted films, but every once in a while a great little indie project comes out to remind us that terrific films don’t just come from the Hollywood machinery. This little film that could takes a working-class Latina single mother who jumps head first into the world of sushi – a cuisine dominated by Asian, primarily Japanese, men. While the film doesn’t throw any real surprises at you and is largely a feel-good crowd pleaser, it sure does hit the right chords as it progresses through the motions. And as pure food porn it must be effective because I have eaten sushi now three times since watching it last week. A-

Unrated, but would be an R
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
The very beautiful and talented actress Sarah Bolger heads into creepy horror film mode as Emelie, a babysitter with evil intentions, in this latest low-budget horror flick. The film succeeds at giving you pause at who you leave your children with. But ultimately it fails at providing a convincing narrative. There are so many great places this film could have gone but instead it feels like the filmmakers just wanted to upset their audience rather than give them a compelling reason to keep watching. The good news is that the film comes in at only 80 minutes, making it much less torturous than it could have been. C+