New in Home Entertainment – September 29, 2015


New in Home Entertainment

September 29, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction, and some suggestive comments
Available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D
This second Avengers movie finds the group at war with an artificial intelligence robot named Ultron, built by Tony Stark/Iron (Robert Downey, Jr.), who, instead of protecting the world decides to destroy it instead. While very fun at times, it also becomes trying at others as the story becomes increasingly more preposterous. And while I can definitely appreciate the aggressive ambition of tying together an entire universe of movies, I have found myself forgetting past plotlines that I am certain will be important to remember once this whole cosmos gets pulled together in the next Avengers film. That being said, there is no doubt that this is an entertaining enough picture that will keep your teenagers (and younger) out of your hair for more than two hours at a time while they study it instead of their schoolwork. B

Rated R for pervasive language, strong sexual content, nudity and some drug use
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Vinnie Chase and his band of brothers leave the small screen for the big in this single entity adventure that takes place not too long after the last episode of their last season of the hit HBO television show. In this storyline, Vinnie gets the chance to direct and star in a new film while Ari is forced to defend his choice of allowing it to happen. The whole thing feels like a condensed version of one of their seasons, which is better than stretching the whole thing out over 3 months. The story isn’t horrible, but the acting isn’t great by any member of the cast and the cameos only make it worse. While I used to enjoy peeping in on their bad behavior, I wish now that they would just grow up. C

Cop Car
Rated R for language, violence and brief drug use
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Kevin Bacon stars in this indie thriller about a small town sheriff whose cop car is stolen by a couple of pre-teen runaways. Of course the sheriff is up to no good when the car is stolen, and the events that transpire, while simply plotted, are hard to take your eyes off of. This is a well-crafted little film with a lead actor that gives it credibility. And while its hard to like any of the characters, including the kids, you still can’t wait to see what happens to them. B

The Bear: 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition
Rated PG for violence
Available on Blu-ray
With the help of computer animation, this film would be fairly easy to make now, but twenty five years ago that wasn’t the case. Following the life of a young bear and a wounded Kodiak who are being hunted by humans, the movie uses amazing wildlife footage to tell a story that actually makes it look like the bears are a couple of cooperative actors. While the film is essentially a nature film, it is far too dark for young children due to the extreme amount of realistic violence contained. A-

New in Home Entertainment – September 22, 2015

Pitch Perfect 2

New in Home Entertainment

September 22, 2015

Pitch Perfect 2
Rated PG-13 for innuendo and language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
In a world where A Capella singing is more important than football, the girls from Pitch Perfect are back and performing for the president. When a severe wardrobe malfunction occurs, they are banned from recruiting or competing unless they can happen to beat the Germans in a world-wide competition. What is surprising here is how awfully random the story is. The filmmakers put together some pretty impressive song arrangements and performances, but every bit of dialog in between is filled with nonsensical silliness. While I didn’t care for the first Pitch Perfect, at least it had a bit of a story. This poor excuse for a plot is insulting to the audience, even if they just want to enjoy the music. D+

Saint Laurent
Rated R for graphic nudity/strong sexual situations, substance abuse throughout and some language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
In French and English with English subtitles
The life of the famous French designer Yves Saint Laurent is explored in this graphic but beautifully produced biopic. After spending almost three hours watching this film, I must admit that I am not even close to being the target audience. While I’ve seen the initials YSL in high end stores, I didn’t even know what it stood for. And while I’m no longer shocked at graphic homosexual material, it isn’t something I find enjoyable to watch. On the plus side, the film gave me a better take on the man behind the label and it is a well-crafted project aesthetically, as you could imagine. But given the subject matter, it’s not something I found to be deserving of this kind of epic treatment and I was easily bored and distracted. I can see how, for the right audience, this could be an inspiring and satisfying project. C+

Rated PG for menacing fantasy action and some mild language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Twenty years have now passed since Robin Williams brought us with him into this grand adventure about a board game that brings the jungle into your living room. At the time, the graphics and special effects were mind-blowing, but twenty years later, the film does look old. That being said, the story is a blast and extremely well-crafted. There is a sense of sadness as you watch the brilliant Robin Williams doing what he did best while listening to the score by the late James Horner which was much better than a film like this usually gets. Were this the eighteenth anniversary edition instead of the twentieth, this might have been a much less sobering experience. B+



Starring Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin and Jake Gyllenhaal
Directed by Balthasar Kormakur (2 Guns)
Rated PG-13 for intense peril and disturbing images

     Being the tallest mountain on our planet, every year lots of mountain climbers attempt to conquer Everest and many of them fail, or worse. This new film by Icelandic director Balthasar Komakur tells the true story of a group of climbers from a 1996 expedition who, on an attempt to get to the top, undergo extreme adversity and tragedy once there.

     I have always been fascinated by the thought of people climbing Everest. Through books and documentaries, I have created in my own mind what it must be like to make this dangerous journey. But this movie is, by far, the most realistic vision I can imagine of what it must be like to risk your life just to be able to say you did it. I have no desire to climb any of the seven peaks, but being able to watch a movie like this gives me all the thrill I need, wrapped up in a two hour package.

     Production-wise, the film is a fantastic experience. It is spectacular to look at and take in. Seeing it in 3D IMAX, in my opinion, is the only way to go with a film like this. It’s big and bold and a wonderful sight to behold. I was also happy that they hired one of the greatest modern composers, Dario Marianelli, to do the score. Showing the opposite extreme from his tender scores for Pride & Prejudice and Anna Karenina, the music is allowed to open up and breathe, making the experience that much more grandiose.

     Story-wise the film is told almost like a documentary, which is good and bad. I rather enjoyed getting to know the characters, but try as hard as they did, the cast still seemed distant. The roles are well-acted by an extremely talented cast, but the parts weren’t the juiciest. The story itself tells of man vs. nature, which allows a bit of tension between its characters, but not enough to really draw you in like it could. A similar story, A Perfect Storm, tackles this complex screenwriting dilemma in a better way, providing for a better connection to the human element of the adventure. That being said, it shouldn’t be a deterrent to seeing the film.

     One thing I am both surprised and glad the filmmakers did, was to make it family-friendly. I didn’t expect it at all but found it refreshing that a big film with a huge budget and a killer cast could actually be made without bad language, sex and violence. There are some frightening images that are important to the film, but overall what a nice change of scenery. A-

New in Home Entertainment – September 15, 2015

Love and Mercy

New in Home Entertainment

September 15, 2015

Love & Mercy
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, drug content and language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
This extraordinary biopic tells the story of The Beach Boys’ brilliant singer-songwriter Brian Wilson and his struggle with the depression and adversity that came with his genius. With great performances by Paul Dano as the young Wilson and John Cusack as the aged version, the film flawlessly moves back and forth between decades without losing its audience and it really makes you feel like you are there watching the creation of the legendary music come out of his brain. Whether or not you like The Beach Boys, this is an incredible and enjoyable story that is memorably told. A

Rated PG for mild thematic elements
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Disney’s latest live-action remake of its animated classics brings the story of Cinderella to life in a magnificent way. Lilly James is quite good in the starring role but it’s Cate Blanchett as the evil Stepmother and Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother who steal the show. Behind the reigns is Thor Director Kenneth Branagh who is better known for his Shakespearean productions than family fare. But he did a surprisingly good job here creating a movie that can be enjoyed by all ages and not at all targeted for just the young ones. B+

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst
Rated TV-MA
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
This six-part HBO documentary looks at the life of New York real estate scion Robert Durst who was thought to have killed several people, including his wife, but who had possibly escaped justice due to an incredibly expensive legal team. As the documentary is being made, many items surface and the filmmakers find themselves acting as detectives, uncovering incriminating evidence that they get to ask Durst about in the interview sessions. This is as chilling and engrossing as a movie or television show gets. Most documentaries explore things that have happened in a piece of time that has already occurred. To watch this one unfold and then to be able to follow it afterward makes it a project not to be missed. A

Disneynature’s Monkey Kingdom
Rated G
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Walt Disney loved nature documentaries and for years the studio produced amazing nature stories, some of which went on to win Oscars. So I am very glad that they have shown a newfound commitment to bring this tradition back. This eighth film from Disneynature follows the lives of a small group of clever and resourceful monkeys living in the ancient ruins of South Asia. Narrated by Tina Fey, they manage to create an entertaining narrative out of their lives. Although not as compelling as Chimpanzee or Bears, Monkey Kingdom is still a great little nature doc with some terrific surprises. B

Furious 7
Rated PG-13 for prolonged frenetic sequences of violence, action and mayhem, suggestive content and brief strong language
Available on Blu-ray and DVD
In this seventh installment of the street racing franchise, the entire gang is back and under threat from Jason Statham who is determined to get revenge for the death of his brother who apparently died in a previous installment (I’ve seen them all but I honestly can’t remember a single plot line). The film has a tremendous amount of stunts that I have to admit make for impressive set pieces. Unfortunately the whole movie feels like a team dreamed up these feats and then put dialog in at the last minute. Almost every word of the screenplay is horrible. That being said, the tribute to Paul Walker, who died while they were making the movie, is touching and professionally done, even if the rest of the film feels like a battering ram to the brain. C

New in Home Entertainment – September 8, 2015


New in Home Entertainment

September 8, 2015

The Age of Adaline
Rated PG-13 for a suggestive comment
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Blake Lively stars in this sci-fi-ish romance about a young girl who, after what should have been a tragic car accident, survives with the curse of never growing older. The movie does a very good job at pulling you in to the young Adaline’s tale but the sequence editing is so peculiar that it distracts you from what is most important – the story. But then the meat of the movie hits as Harrison Ford comes into the picture and the dynamic of the film changes entirely, in a very nice way. So while much of the film is poorly put together early on, half-way through it metamorphosizes into a lovely and compelling romantic movie, making the whole journey worth the taking. B

Dressed to Kill: The Criterion Collection
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
I’m guessing that with the whole Caitlyn Jenner story eating up the press, Criterion decided it was time to jump in with Brian De Palma’s 1980 sex thriller about a cross-dressing killer starring Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson and Nancy Allen. Everything about this film is completely over-the-top including the violence, sex/nudity, music and especially the acting. While the story could have actually made for a decent movie, here we get a huge pile of excess. That being said, Criterion tries to give the film a credible backing with this new 4K digital transfer and a huge body of special features attempting to prove why the film belongs in its library. In my opinion, this “classic” is just 105 minutes of schlock. C-

Supernatural: The Complete 10th Season
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
In this newest series about two supernatural crime-fighting brothers, they literally enter a war between heaven and hell. In season one I would have given this series maybe six years before the ideas would dissipate and the quality took a turn south. But that hasn’t happened. Instead, the writing has improved, as has the chemistry between the Winchester brothers, played by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles. While the storylines here are darker, and that’s saying a lot, the show is still as fun as it was in the beginning. B+

New in Home Entertainment – August 25, 2015

walking dead

New in Home Entertainment

August 25, 2015

The Walking Dead: The Complete Fifth Season
Rated TV-MA
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
There’s a reason why The Walking Dead is still one of the most watched and most talked-about shows on television: it’s really, really good. The only thing that has truly frightened me about The Walking Dead was my fear of how the show would degrade without creator Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption) at the reigns, but the quality has only increased with the drama and story keeping everyone glued to their sets. Even the one-hour talk show hosted by Chris Hardwick (The Talking Dead) is getting better ratings than most shows on cable, and rightly so. It’s safe to say the show is phenomenon. This latest season finds the crew of survivors finally living in what appears to be a nice little town. Unlike some of their earlier similar scenarios, they just might be in a welcome spot. But now they have to deal with their own personal psychological damage as well as the fact that the new town is weak and ripe for a takeover if they aren’t made stronger. Overall its a very binge-worthy season of television and I can’t wait to see the next chapter in October. A-

Disney Short Films Collection
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Walt Disney has always been know for its short films, many of which have gone on to great acclaim. In recent years, there has been steep competition, including that from its sister studio Pixar, but Disney takes the art form seriously and keeps coming up with new and interesting stories featuring innovative animation styles and nuances. This latest collection features 12 of Disney’s latest masterpieces. While I’m not the biggest fan of “Frozen Fever,” mostly due to Frozen brain freeze, the Oscar-winning shorts “Feast” and “Paperman” are beautifully unique and 2006’s Oscar-nominated “The Little Matchgirl” is a true testament to Disney’s ability to emotionally attach its audience in only a mere few minutes. Overall this is a wonderful collection of rich and imaginative storytelling. A-

Welcome to New York
Rated R for strong sexuality, graphic nudity, a rape and language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Loosely reenacting the recent events of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn controversy, Gerard Depardieu plays Mr Devereaux, a powerful French economist and political figure who rapes a cleaning lady in his hotel and then tries to use his influence and money to escape his charges. The movie definitely has authenticity written all over it. You get the sense that while the filmmakers seem a little overly careful in not using real names and titles, they most surely paint a picture of what the scenario might have been like. This reality though is not pleasant to watch and my discomfort and disgust had me exhausted and feeling pretty sick. I had to take a long, hot shower afterward just to recover. Now if only there was a decent shower for the mind. This film is going to be hard to scrub out. C+

New in Home Entertainment – August 11, 2015


New in Home Entertainment

August 11, 2015

Hot Pursuit
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, violence, language and some drug material
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Reese Witherspoon plays a by-the-book cop who is tasked with escorting a drug-dealer’s wife (Sofia Vergara) from San Antonio to Dallas where she will be testifying against the leader of a drug cartel. The film starts out cute enough, as you watch Witherspoon’s transformation from little girl to obsessive police officer, but the whole thing becomes stupid quick as the characters make way too many nonsensical decisions in a completely inauthentic manner. The biggest problem with this is that the filmmakers pace the film like this stuff is supposed to get laughter – and none of it is even mildly funny. It surprises me that with such a great duo that such a lousy movie could come of it, but the project was misconceived at every turn. I try very hard to avoid the really bad movies when they come out as they hurt my soul, and this one is so horrible I feel like I’ve met my quota for the year. F

Rated R for violent content, pervasive language, some sexuality, and drug and alcohol use – all involving teens
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
On the one year anniversary of her death, a girl who committed suicide after being cyber-bullied addresses her so-called friends online. While not terribly scary and full of stupid characters making stupid decisions, Unfriended is at least novel. The majority of the film is seen from the point of view of a computer screen as the group of friends use various social media platforms to communicate. Ultimately, its a great idea that could have used a bit more creativity to follow through with its promise. C

A Little Chaos
Rated R for some sexuality and brief nudity
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
In this romance directed by famed character actor Alan Rickman, Kate Winslet plays a talented landscape designer who is hired to build an outdoor ballroom on the grounds of Versailles. While working there she falls in love with the king’s landscape artist. The movie is interesting and extremely beautiful to look at, as you’d expect from such a project. The acting also is perfect for such a tale. Unfortunately, the script could have used some work as it feels very forced with anything involving the romance and its controversy. Until it happens, you don’t even feel a tinge of attraction between the leads, but from those around them you’d think they were having a scandalous affair when they’ve barely had a discussion of work. While annoying, it is easily overlooked and the finished product is quite lovely. B

I Am Chris Farley
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
From the Spike Network comes this loving memoir of the famed SNL actor who died a tragic death at the at the age of 33. Told from the family and friends who knew him best, the film dives mostly into what everyone loved about him rather than what drove him to his final hours. Some critics have dismissed this as being too one-sided but I rather like my memories of the comedy legend as they are and this film does nothing but lock them into place. B+

New in Home Entertainment – August 4, 2014

Addult Beginners

New in Home Entertainment

August 4, 2015

Adult Beginners
Rated R for language and some drug use
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
When a young hipster (Nick Kroll) falls into severe business troubles, he moves back home with his sister (Rose Byrne) and her husband (Bobby Cannavale) to re-find himself. Without a job or purpose, he takes on the role of nanny with his three-year-old nephew. There’s something about this little indie comedy that is somewhat likable. The characters aren’t particularly interesting but they are well-presented by capable actors. The story isn’t anything special but it is relatable. The comedy isn’t pervasive but there are moments where you get a good laugh. Overall its a harmless enough distraction and I can think of worse ways to spend ninety minutes. B-
Into the Grizzly Maze
Rated R for animal attack/disturbing images, violence, terror, brief sexuality and language
Available on DVD
James Marsden, Thomas Jane and Billy Bob Thornton lead this fairly all-star cast as individuals, all with different motives, who attempt to hunt down a monstrosity of a grizzly bear who is terrorizing the community. It’s fairly obvious from the stale performances that everyone involved was there for a paycheck, but at least the filmmakers keep the movie short and full of fun bear-induced violence. I was actually impressed at the final battle sequence which looked semi-believable. In fact the ending is almost worth having to put up with the rest of the movie. C+

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Rogue Nation

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
Starring Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg and Jeremy Renner
Directed by Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher)
Rated PG-13 for violence, language and some drug material

     This fifth installment of Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible franchise finds Ethan Hunt (Cruise) deep in the middle of a huge international case when the CIA decides to disband the IMF and make Hunt enemy number one. But instead of revolting or disappearing, Hunt and his crew of highly skilled misfits continue to work on finding and stopping the international crime “syndicate” that the CIA doesn’t even believe exists.

     Each one of these films has bigger and flashier set pieces but this one really takes the cake, and even in the first few minutes. In the very first act, Cruise pulls off a stunt hanging from the side of a jumbo jet as it takes off, and from the press around the film it appears the stunt was very real. With today’s technology this could have easily been done on a computer. But to give his audience the biggest thrills possible, Cruise gives the movie his all, over and over again. His abilities and dedication to his craft have never ceased to amaze me and this film just takes everything up a notch.

     New to the franchise is director Christopher McQuarrie, who until recently has had mostly writing credits on his resume, including his Oscar-winning screenplay for The Usual Suspects. Here he really shows that he has the chops to direct a big tentpole picture. Along with a very talented production team, and a gigantic budget I’m sure, he pulls off a massive undertaking with style and class.

     While Ethan Hunt has been considered by many to be the American answer to James Bond, I didn’t think I would ever see the day that a Mission: Impossible flick could be better than a Bond film, especially in the presence of new Bond Daniel Craig. Until now. Rogue Nation is better than any 007 film I’ve ever seen and has the potential to be a legendary movie in the spy genre.

     So your mission, should you choose to accept it: show some discipline and don’t see this film – no matter how good people say it is. If you believe Mr Cruise to be the leader of a dangerous and recklessly un-American cult, then send a message to him, with your pocketbook, that as long he is associated with Scientology, you will not support his “church” with your hard-earned dollars. Trust me, with the reviews this film is going to get, should enough people stay home this weekend, he will hear you loud and clear.  A

New in Home Entertainment – July 28, 2015

Water Diviner

New in Home Entertainment

July 28, 2015

The Water Diviner
Rated R for war violence including some disturbing images
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Russell Crowe directs and stars in this drama about an Australian father who travels to Turkey to find his three missing sons after the Battle of Gallipoli. While one of the greatest actors of our time, Crowe is making his directorial debut here and he does a pretty admirable job. The pacing is a bit off at times but his presence on screen carries the film and makes it so you at least care about his plight, no matter what the result. The film does lose its focus a bit in regards to the single mother who works in the inn where he resides, which diverts the story in the direction of being a slow-moving romance. While this subplot isn’t horrible, it is against character as Crowe seems distracted from his honorable cause a little too much. My knowledge of wars in that region of the world is less than adequate, so I’m very thankful there is a special feature about the Battle of Gallipoli to help with context. B

White God
Rated R for violent content including bloody images, and language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
In Hungarian with English subtitles
When a girl’s mutt is taken away from her and released on the outskirts of the city, she goes on a daring quest to reunite with him. But her dog’s journey creates a scenario where he becomes an alpha of a large and aggressive pack, bent on revenge against mankind. This is definitely a case of a film being impressive in regard to how they made it, but the overall project could have used some help in the story department. I loved the dog’s tale, but the girl’s tale was less than compelling. I have to admit that it’s a truly amazing achievement how the filmmakers were able to make a movie using rescued dogs, turning them into such fantastic characters. The vision is truly extraordinary. As a horror film it’s not particularly scary, but it’s still an adventure worth taking. B-