New in Home Entertainment – July 22, 2014

Blue-Ruin

 

New in Home Entertainment

 

July 22, 2014

 

Blue Ruin
Rated R for
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
I really love it when an indie comes out of nowhere and smacks you upside the head. Blue Ruin is just that kind of film. The story follows a desperate man who finds out that the redneck who was sent to prison for killing his mom and dad has just been released from prison. After a quick and carelessly thought out revenge, his whole world comes crashing in around him. Once the story gets going, the movie singes along with an incredibly fast pace that leaves you almost sweating from the tension. While there are no known actors in the project, that doesn’t matter in the least as the performances are all perfect and the story and directing match. While you might not have heard of it during its short-lived theatrical run, this is a film that should get great word of mouth on DVD and streaming. A

Sabotage
Rated R for
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Arnold Schwarzenegger once again tries to advance his comeback with this tale of an aging DEA special forces agent whose team is being picked off one by one, apparently by a South American drug cartel. While the story is somewhat salvageable, the writing is pretty poor with performances equally as bad. The word cliche could be used to describe much of the screenplay. Insulting would also work. While the cast is a who’s who of minor league celebrities, they can’t overcome the source material and ultimately a pretty bad excuse for a movie is all that is left. D

Transcendence
Rated PG-13 for
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Johnny Depp stars in this box office dud about a computer scientist who is reincarnated into his machine upon being assassinated. As you would expect, the acting isn’t half bad as Depp, Morgan Freeman and Olivia Wilde maneuver through the script. Unfortunately, the movie comes off as extremely preachy and pretty boring, considering it is being sold as an intellectual action flick. Not even a major special effects budget can rescue this very faulted picture. C-

Shogun
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
As many of you might remember from 1980, this CBS miniseries based on James Clavell’s best selling novel was a major television event. For the decades since, die hard fans have been craving a decent obtainable release for the series but really none has been found in America. This new hi-def transfer gives an amazing looking project that while at first seems dated, quickly becomes a captivating narrative about an English ship captain, played by the venerable Richard Chamberlain, who is shipwrecked in Japan and forced to assimilate into Samurai culture. While there has been a huge change from the way miniseries events used to look to today’s polished gems, many will enjoy the nostalgia and even newcomers should be able to enjoy the spectacular story telling. Most notable in this new release is the pristine look and sound which have been remastered for blu-ray. Since the quality of televisions wasn’t great when it was released, many will be shocked at how beautiful this production is. A-

under_the_skin_stills.435747

New in Home Entertainment

 

July 15, 2014

 

Under the Skin
Rated R for graphic nudity, sexual content, some violence and language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
This trippy sci-fi import from Scotland features Scarlett Johansson as an alien who searches the highways for lonely men to consume. Johansson, who walks around naked for much of the film, gives a really interesting performance, but the story is just too weird to be enjoyed. Part of me is glad that they didn’t just create another flick from the Species franchise, which they easily could have, but I wish a stronger narrative could have been present. It’s a brave and bold project, but not one that is entertaining or memorable, aside from Johansson presenting her, um, assets. C

 

Rio 2
Rated G
Available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D
I basically despised the first Rio film, so going into this one I had the lowest of hopes. Maybe that expectation was what was needed since I walked away having felt a tinge of fun. The story line follows the parrot Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg), his wife Jewel (Anne Hathaway) and their three kids as they fly into the jungles of Brazil and discover a tribe of their own kind, led by Jewel’s father (Andy Garcia). While still a little too silly and of course not enough meat, Rio 2 suffers from some of the same problems as the first, but saving the day are the villains voiced by Flight of the Concords frontman Jemaine Clement and the wicked Kristen Chenoweth. I found myself laughing my tail feather off at their antics and was thankful the writers had the ability to add such witty and edgy material to a film so geared towards small children. C+

 

Watermark
Rated PG for smoking images
Available on DVD
I have mixed feelings about this new documentary focusing on how water literally and figuratively shapes the world around us. The film is stunning to look at, especially in HD, and it is by no means preachy like many other docs of its kind out there. The problem is that it is really dull and I had a tough time focusing. The material is interesting, but certainly not even close to groundbreaking. C

raid2

 

New in Home Entertainment

 

July 8, 2014

 

The Raid 2
Rated R for sequences of strong bloody violence throughout, sexuality and language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Indonesian and Bahasa with English Subtitles
This follow-up to the hit Indonesian pic The Raid: Redemption follows the further adventures of martial arts master Iko Uwais as he goes undercover for the police force to infiltrate the Indonesian mafia. This two-and-a-half hour epic, written and directed by Welsh filmmaker Gareth Evans, is so ultra-violent that it is almost ludicrous. Actually, it was at first so disconcerting that it was sort of a turn off. But then I started enjoying the story and the overall production and before I knew it, I ended up a fan. I’m apparently not alone as the film has become a huge international success and even ranks in the top 200 films of all time on IMDB.com. While the story is interesting enough to keep your attention for a lengthy period, its the fighting that will impress you the most. The choreography is unique and insanely entertaining. What makes the fighting special is that instead of getting lazy like some filmmakers, the sequences are filmed where you can actually see the absolutely brutal fighting in wide shots rather than be incredibly close up where the actors can essentially fake it. B+

 

Bad Words
Rated R for crude and sexual content, language and brief nudity
Available one DVD and Blu-ray
Arrested Development star Jason Bateman makes his directorial debut as well as stars in this feature about a grown man who discovers a loop hole in the childhood spelling bee rules which allows him to enter and crush the competition. Similar to Billy Bob Thornton’s Bad Santa, Bad Words shows adults behaving badly around seemingly innocent children. Just like Bad Santa, Bad Words is well-written and the acting is pretty decent as well. Bateman proves he has directing skills to match his acting and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can pull off next. Whatever it is, I hope it’s at least as edgy as this guilty pleasure. B

 

Jodorowsky’s Dune
Rated PG-13 for some violent and sexual images and drug references
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
In 1975, director Alejandro Jodorowsky, hot off the success of his cult classic hits El Topo and The Holy Mountain, began working on a movie based on Frank Herbert’s legendary sci-fi novel Dune. Bringing together an eclectic band of filmmakers and artists like Dan O’Bannon, Jean “Moebius” Giraud and H.R. Giger (all responsible for the Alien franchise and other sci-fi classics), signing actors Orson Welles, Mick Jagger, David Carradine and Salvador Dali, as well as convincing Pink Floyd to provide the soundtrack, Dune was shaping up to be a huge and important piece of science fiction. But as the project got bigger and bigger, the studios all got gun shy and the film was never made with Jodorowsky at the helm. This documentary explores what many consider to be “The Greatest Film Never Made.” It is fascinating from start to finish, even with the heartbreaking fact that the film couldn’t go into full production looming over the narrative. What is truly mind-blowing is how influential and inspirational this film became, in spite of never having a single shot put to celluloid. A

 

Bad Grandpa.5 Unrated
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Know what you are getting into with this new Bad Grandpa release. If you haven’t seen the film or are looking for an extended edition, then avoid. If you are wanting to see an 86 minute making of documentary, then you are in luck. Personally, I did not get a chance to catch Bad Grandpa in theaters or on DVD previously, so I was deeply disappointed that this new edition didn’t contain the original film, which I would like to have seen. This whole product feels like something that should have been merely a special feature on the original release. While interesting to see how they were able to shoot the film, this is certainly not a project that is worth purchasing unless you are an extreme fan. C-

New in Home Entertainment – July 2, 2014

The-Lunchbox-Movie-Stills

New in Home Entertainment

 

July 2, 2014

 

The Lunch Box
Rated PG for thematic material and smoking
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
In this sweet little Indian drama, Irfan Khan (Life of Pi) is a widower on the verge of retirement who accidentally receives the wrong lunches from a young house wife (Nimrat Kur) trying to please her husband with extraordinary meals at work. By passing notes back and forth to each other through the lunchbox, the two strike up a friendship that helps both of them both cope with their difficult lives. Sometimes you need a break from the Transformers of the world and this movie provides a terrific little slice of life tale from the other side of the planet. It’s a great screenplay, well executed by excellent actors and impressive production values. And even though it has a small indie feel to it, it ends up being quite memorable. A-

The Unknown Known
Rated PG-13 for some disturbing images and brief nudity
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Similar in theme to his Oscar winning documentary The Fog of War, Errol Morris’s The Unknown Known replaces Robert McNamara with Donald Rumsfeld as he tries to explain away his time as Secretary of Defense during the Dick Cheney, pardon, George W. Bush administration. While trying to come off as professional and competent, the former leader too often shows his true colors and how different his morals and ethics are from the majority of Americans. This is a fascinating documentary, if you can get past the nausea. B+

New in Home Entertainment – June 24, 2014

New in Home Entertainment

June 24, 2014

Winter’s Tale
Rated PG-13 for violence and some sensuality
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Sometimes the critics are so wrong.  You won’t hear me say that often but this time it sticks.  The Rotten Tomatoes score for Winter’s Tale is 13% and yet I rather enjoyed it.  Based on the fantasy novel by Mark Helprin and written and directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Akiva Goldsman, Winter’s Tale tells the story of a mysterious young man in early 1900’s New York (Colin Farrell) who is being hunted through an entire century by an evil demon (Russell Crowe).  Sure it has its problems, but the story is interesting, the acting by most of the cast is solid and the production values are terrific.  I especially loved the score by Hans Zimmer and Rupert Gregson-Williams.  It’s probably not as magical or as easy to understand as it should have been, but overall, I think its a good rental that might just surprise you.  B+

300: Rise of an Empire

Rated R for strong sustained sequences of stylized bloody violence throughout, a sex scene, nudity and some language
Available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D

This sequel to 300 follows the greek general Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) as he attempts to unite Greece to fight Xerxes and his Persian army.  Visually, the film is just as exciting as its predecessor, but honestly, the story feels stale and all of the blood and guts thrown in your face get tedious real quick.  By the end I was just bored and ready to move on.  Maybe its the lack of Zach Snyder at the helm or maybe its just the lack of a compelling script, but this Rise falls flat.  C-

A Hard Day’s Night: Criterion Edition

Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Getting the Criterion treatment this month is The Beatles iconic film A Hard Days Night which follows the Fab Four as they stumble from one scene to the next, singing songs all the way.  The good news is that the film looks and sounds great with a remastered soundtrack and restored print.  The bad news is that the film is still a silly and cheesy movie that is unworthy of the stars found within.  My advice, fast forward between songs.  C-

How to Train Your Dragon 2

How to Train Your Dragon 2
Starring Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera and Gerard Butler
Directed by Dean DeBlois (How to Train Your Dragon)
Rated PG for adventure action and some mild rude humor

    When How to Train Your Dragon hit the screen in 2010 I was absolutely blown away.  It was original, gutsy, different and stunningly beautiful.  And it left some big shoes to fill for a sequel. 

    In this newest edition, five years have passed and Hiccup and his viking mates are now young men and women, all of whom have mastered dragon riding.  Upon exploring the greater world around him, Hiccup discovers a huge ice cave filled with thousands of exotic new dragons led by his mother who everyone presumed dead (sorry if that’s a spoiler but it was in the trailers).  At the same time though, he discovers an evil mad man who has trained a dragon army in the hopes of taking over the world. 

    This film does a lot of things right.  I love that enough time has passed to allow a different version of its main characters.  Hiccup especially has turned into a brave young man who is still trying to figure things out while displaying a quiet confidence in his impressive abilities.  Its a very nice transition to observe.  His cohort also are now young men and women who have two things on the brain, dragons and the opposite sex.  There are some rather hilarious moments as the teens try to woo their targets.  Like the first film, the background characters outside of the main cast are more scenery than anything, but not terribly distracting. 

    The writing, as expected, is terrific and the narrative is strong.  The story being told here is big and bold and huge in scope with a lot of surprises that I won’t spoil.  I did think the mother seemed rather useless come the big battle, which seemed out of place given her talents as a dragon master.  Its almost as if they forgot about her in the third act.  That being said, I did like the directions they took in the story. 

    Probably my favorite quality of the film is how beautiful it is .  Once again, Dreamworks Animation put together a talented crew and I’m sure using legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins again as a visual consultant greatly enhanced the look.  While I’m not crazy about the 3D of the film, the actual cinematography and lighting were breathtaking.  There are moments in the battle sequences that actually look like real giant dragons fighting.  And the flight sequences are beyond anything we’ve ever seen previously.  Add that to a new score by the Oscar-nominated composer John Powell and songs by Icelandic musician Jonsi and you get quite a stunning collection of memorable sequences. 

    So while I would still pick the first Dragon as my favorite, I will concede that this film could grow on me over time.  When I first saw The Empire Strikes Back I preferred the first film for years.  Now I see things differently.  Number 2 here could be the same as I will most definitely enjoy it again and again as I let it simmer in my brain.  A

New in Home Entertainment – June 17, 2014

New in Home Entertainment

June 17, 2014

The Lego Movie
Rated PG for mild action and rude humor
Available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D

Perhaps the biggest surprise of 2014 so far is this runaway hit that no one saw coming.  The Matrix-ish story follows a very average lego worker who fights the evil Lord Business and his sinister plan to take over the world.  From start to finish it is a fun, incredibly clever and fast-paced adventure with well-written jokes and an amazing cast of actors to deliver them.  A-

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Rated R for language, some sexual content and violence
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Wes Anderson’s newest film places Ralph Fiennes as a powerful hotel concierge at an Eastern European hotel in the early 1930’s as he attempts to escape the law after he is wrongly accused of an elderly lover’s murder.   Wes Anderson’s film are some of my favorite cinematic experiences and this one is truly one of his best.  The cast is full of A-listers who all seem to be having a blast while making the chaotic and quirky adventure.  This is truly a film you will be able to enjoy for years and decades to come.  A

Tim’s Vermeer

Rated PG-13 for some strong language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

In this inspired documentary by the silent Penn and Teller comedian Teller, San Antonio millionaire and non-painter Tim Jenison attempts to recreate one of Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer’s master works using the camera obscura, the same device that Vermeer is said to have used to create all of his paintings.  If you are an art fan, you won’t be able to take your eyes off of this movie.  It is mind-blowing at times and one of the most interesting documentaries of 2014.  A-

Ernest & Celestine
Rated PG for some scary moments
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

While Monster’s University wasn’t one of Pixar’s best creations, I was surprised when it was overlooked for an Oscar nod in the feature length animation film category, especially when I saw this little hand-drawn French film pop up in the nomination list.  Ernest & Celestine follows the story of a bear and a mouse (in a town with only bears and mice) who become friends in spite of laws in place to keep that from happening.  The movie is sweet enough and has a good message about friendship, but I was so distracted by scale that I couldn’t enjoy it like I should have.  Rather than float along with it, I kept thinking that a mouse wouldn’t be able to hold a bear’s tooth in her hand and have it still be the same size as one of hers.  It’s a silly thing to be distracted by, but the film is full of similar detail flaws that could have been easily overcome.  I also think that if the story were stronger, or maybe a little less simplistic, I might have overlooked those problems, but when I get bored I start to nitpick and this film had me paying too much attention to things I shouldn’t have.  Then again, the simplicity of the project is one of its strengths and proves to be quite charming at times.  And although the style of animation isn’t the big-budget computer-animated style we are all used to, it is lovely to look at and the score by Vincent Courtois creates a beautiful mood for the picture.  B-

New in Home Entertainment – June 10, 2014



New in Home Entertainment

June 10, 2014

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and intense action, and brief strong language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Paramount is once again resurrecting Jack Ryan with an even younger hero in Chris Pine (Star Trek).  Directed by and starring as the villain, Kenneth Branagh makes for a good baddie and Pine and Kevin Costner have decent chemistry together.  The script is a tad bit stale though and so full of action that the brains seem to be missing completely.  It’s almost as if the plot is just an excuse to get from point to point in order to show off another set piece.  At an hour and forty-five the movie almost feels too short, like they were trying to hide their lack of any real story.  C+

True Detective
Rated TV-MA
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

HBO’s new hit show starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as two cops going against a satanic serial killer in Southwest Louisiana made a splash this past year as it shocked audiences hungry for Game of Thrones to start up.  While it is well-written and the acting is superb, it feels like an American remake of BBC’s Red Riding Trilogy in its scope.  That being said, I liked what they did with it and can’t wait to see where they take it in seasons to come.  B+

Son of God
Rated PG-13 for intense and bloody depiction of The Crucifixion and for some sequences of violence
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

After The History Channel discovered they had a huge hit on their hands with The Bible, they decided to re-edit the show to make a feature length movie about the ministry of Jesus on Earth.  The production values are huge and I particularly love the unknown actors they chose to play some of the best known characters from history such as Jesus, Pilate, Caiaphas and John.  Due to how this film came about, the screenplay isn’t the best and a better narrative would have improved the film immensely.  I still much prefer The Passion of the Christ, but this one is much more family friendly, even with the violence it depicts.  B+

Unacceptable Levels
Not Rated
Available on DVD

This movie has already cost me $1500.  Let me explain.  This documentary that attempts to tell us what is in the water we are consuming as well as what chemicals are in our bodies and how they got there.  In one of the segments it discusses fluoride and a not-so-secret government conspiracy to cover up how most cities, including the one I live in, obtain their fluoride and the damage it can do, as well as the lack of science behind its helpfulness.  My independent research unfortunately corroborated the story.  While its not a well-crafted documentary and seems a bit novice at times, it was effective enough to convince my wife and I to invest in a device for our home to remove the fluoride being pumped into it.  Now comes the test to see if our teeth rot out in the near future.  B

Bible Quiz
Not Rated
Available on DVD

I love documentaries about obscure childhood competitions like Spellbound, Wordplay and Brooklyn Castle.  While this new religious-themed doc won’t be competing for awards come the end of the year, it certainly will make for good entertainment for the right audience.  Following a group of students who compete in a Bible Quiz competition nationally, the movie dives fairly deep into the lives of some very good, although somewhat cocky young bible scholars who know more about The Bible than most of us could ever dream of.  Having memorized several chapters of The Good Book they are in impressive lot and fun to watch as they show off their skills.  More importantly, though, I enjoyed getting to know them on a personal level and would love to see what direction their lives go to in the future.  I wish the filmmaker would have interviewed past champions in the present to see how, and if, these skills have paid off in life.  B+

New in Home Entertainment – June 3, 2014

New in Home Entertainment

June 3, 2014

Lone Survivor
Rated R for strong bloody war violence and pervasive language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Based on the best selling book by Marcus Luttrell, Lone Survivor tells the story of a group of Navy Seals who sacrifice their lives taking on a high-level Taliban operative and the one seal who makes it out alive due to the kindness of strangers.  When it comes to the war in Afghanistan, this is one of Hollywood’s best examples of modern warfare put to the screen, much stronger than the Oscar-winning Hurt Locker.   Unfortunately, it just doesn’t have the story-telling power to be considered a classic like Blackhawk Down, Platoon or Saving Private Ryan.  While Lone Survivor has a lot of integrity in the way it tries to tell the story of the brave men that lost their lives, it also becomes difficult to watch during the brutal battle scene as it tries too hard to make its audience feel every bullet and bone break.  Overall, I just didn’t find it as compelling as it tried to be.  B

True Blood: Season 6
Rated TV-MA
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

While season five of this hit HBO show about a Louisiana town haunted by vampires, werewolves and all other sorts of supernatural beings was pretty loopy, this new season gets a little ridiculous.  Now that Bill has become a vampire god, the war between humans and vamps becomes a fun one to watch.  What’s not fun are the other tedious story lines.  I am even starting to become apathetic about the main characters, including Sookie and Jason Stackhouse as they meander through the wandering stories.  That being said, I’ll keep watching this mess through its final season this summer to see if it all comes together in the end.  C+

We Always Lie to Strangers
Unrated but contains graphic language
Available on DVD

I’ve never been to Branson, Missouri but I’ve always been fascinated by the stories I’ver heard from friends and family who frequent the small American town known for their old-timey shows and kitsch.  This new documentary explores the lives of the performers in a way that makes them interesting while also showing that everything isn’t what it appears to be on the surface.  The on-stage vs the behind-curtain worlds are examined in detail and I feel that I know the town much better than I ever thought I would.  And while I have no interest in ever going to the shows, I find the people performing them to be intriguing.  B+

Falling Skies: Season 3
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

If you haven’t figured out from my reviews, I’m a bit of a sci-fi nerd and I love original and entertaining examples of the genre.  In its third and most intense season, Noah Wiley and crew are up against some immense pressure from the alien invasion, but receive help in the war for survival from new alien allies.  Falling Skies continues to be a well-written and exciting serial with terrific special effects.  If you start now, you should be ready for season four on June 22.  B+

New in Home Entertainment – May 27, 2014

New in Home Entertainment

May 27, 2014

Red River: The Criterion Collection

Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Long hailed as one of the best westerns ever made, 1948’s Red River starring John Wayne and Montgomery Clift as two opposing forces leading a cattle drive along the Chisholm Trail from Texas to Missouri has gotten a beautiful 2K restoration from the folks at Criterion.  While its awkward seeing John Wayne as kind of a bad guy in this western recreation of Mutiny on the Bounty, the film feels more authentic than many of Wayne’s other pictures and you just can’t beat the pristine look and sound in this new edition.  The set includes both the rarely presented original theatrical version, which was the preferred cut of director Howard Hawks, and the prerelease version that most folks are used to.  Trust me when I tell you this is a great Father’s Day present for any western-loving dads in your family.  A-

The Bob Newhart Show: The Complete Collection
Available on DVD

People always tell me I have a very dry sense of humor and I wonder if some of that came from growing up watching reruns of The Bob Newhart Show which stars Bob Newhart as Dr. Robert Hartley, a psychiatrist who seems to specialize in the nuttiest of the nutty.  This long-awaited volume containing 53 hours of material is a daunting but rewarding set for anyone needing a little (or a lot) of binge watching.  A-

How to Train Your Dragon
Rated PG for sequences of intense action and some scary images and brief mild language
Available on Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy Combo

I realize that this is the umpteenth time this film has been released on blu-ray or dvd but I still run into folks who never checked out this masterful animated film.  With number two about to hit theaters, here is your chance to watch the beautiful and well-told story of a young teen viking who decides to train dragons instead of killing them like everyone else in his village.  In addition to the movie, you get a ticket to see the sequel being released in a a couple of weeks.  If you or your kids haven’t seen this fantastic film yet, you really need to.  A+