New in Home Entertainment – August 30, 2016

Jungle Book

New in Home Entertainment

August 30, 2016

The Jungle Book
Rated PG for some sequences of scary action and peril
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Now that technology has somewhat caught up with their imaginations, Disney is able to make some fantastic live action recreations of their classic masterpieces. While not a direct remake of their 1967 animated film based on Rudyard Kipling’s iconic book, the story, about a young boy raised by wolves and left to fend for himself against an evil tiger determined to kill him, is a clever mix of their previous film with more traces of the original prose thrown in. I loved that they used the best songs from the animated film, written by the legendary Sherman Brothers, while still keeping the film largely dramatic rather than musical. It’s a really beautiful film that, while family-friendly, gives everyone an adventure they can truly enjoy. A-

Me Before You
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some suggestive material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 58%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Me Before You, based on the best-selling novel by Jojo Moyes, follows a young girl (Emelia Clarke, aka Mother of Dragons) who takes a job assisting a young quadriplegic man (The Hunger Games’ Sam Clafin). When she discovers that he intends to be euthanized in Switzerland, she attempts to convince him that his life is worth keeping. While the first act is a contrived mess, the movie evolves into a lovely story, determined to make you use up an entire box of tissues in one sitting. Sure it’s manipulative, but it’s also a gutsy risk by the studio to make a film that doesn’t contort to Hollywood’s typical standards. B-

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow: Season 1
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Super hero team-ups are all the rage right now and CW’s new DC show is there to capitalize. While they don’t have any heroes or villains I’ve ever heard of, and the plot is convoluted and repetitive, the cast sure is a doozy. Victor Garber splits time with his other CW hit The Flash, while Brandon Routh (Superman from 2006’s Superman Returns) as well as Dominic Purcell and Wentworth Miller (both stars of Prison Break) join in the fun. I’m not a huge fan of the storytelling, and there are way too many episodes, but the show is watchable if you’re busy multitasking between Clash of Clans and Plague Inc. on your iPhone. B-

New in Home Entertainment – August 23, 2016

Nice Guys

New in Home Entertainment

August 23, 2016

The Nice Guys
Rated R for violence, sexuality, nudity, language and brief drug use
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
While a dud at the box, this film by Lethal Weapon creator Shane Black was a huge hit critically and remains still as one of the best films of 2016 so far. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are two 1970’s detectives who must pair up, regardless of their hatred for one another, to investigate the alleged suicide of a famous porn actress. Just as you’d expect from Black, the action and dialog provide for a funny thrill ride with lots of surprises that have you fully engaged from shot one. An early summer release date surely didn’t help the box office any, but hopefully this gem will find a wider audience at home. A-

The Huntsman: Winter’s War
Rated PG-13 for fantasy action violence and some sensuality
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 17%
Available on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD
As the first major tentpole dud of the summer, Winter’s War is what happens when you put a major movie in the hands of an untested director who is only know for his visual effects work. Serving as both a prequel and sequel to the moderately successful Snow White and the Huntsman, this new project brings back Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron, as a new queen, Theron’s icy sister Emily Blunt searches for the infamous mirror in order to gain new powers. As expected, the special effects are dazzling – especially on the 4K edition if you have that kind of setup. What is not dazzling is the storytelling which is not helped at all by the movie magic around it. While not quite as bad as the critics make it out to be, it’s also not a joy to watch either. C

Maggie’s Plan
Rated R for language and brief sexuality
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
This little indie from Sony Pictures Classics finds Greta Gerwig as a young New Yorker looking to have a baby without the need for a husband. When she finds the married Ethan Hawke, she changes her tune. It’s an odd little romantic comedy without much comedy but at least it has a nice style to it. Then again, I couldn’t relate to any of the characters as I found them to be very selfish and overly flawed. It’s well enough acted, but my lack of connection made it hard to find engaging. C+

The Walking Dead: The Complete Sixth Season
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
As with all of the other seasons, the zombies are fun – the people are scary. Facing a new foe, the gang finds themselves on the run for their lives, only briefly striking back when opportunity knocks. The end of the season has been hotly debated and many are anxious for season 7 to start in October to determine if they will keep watching. That being said, season 6 is full of action, thrills and nice surprises. B+

Narcos: Season One
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
If you are one of the 10 Americans without Netflix, then I highly advise you check out this new set containing the hit show about Pablo Escobar and his rise to power in the drug world. It’s a fantastic drama with superb acting and writing. Better yet – just subscribe to Netflix – they are creating some of the best shows right now outside of HBO and the monthly price tag is indeed a bargain considering what you get. A-

New in Home Entertainment – August 16, 2016

Raiders

New in Home Entertainment

August 16, 2016

Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made
Not Rated
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
It is now mid August and I’ve only seen two films that I feel with almost certainty will land in my top 10 of the year: Hell or High Water (in theaters now) and Raiders! From Drafthouse Films comes this documentary which follows a group of friends who, during their summers as children and teenagers, attempted to remake, shot for shot, their favorite film in the world: Raiders of the Lost Ark. Now, decades later, they come together to finish their film with the last shot they couldn’t afford to film during their youths. For radical movie fans such as myself, this is a movie that is a pure joy to watch and there is a tinge of jealousy that I wasn’t one of their next door neighbors growing up. There are some that have said they wasted their childhood with such nonsense, but I would declare that they had the best of childhoods that will actually deliver them a fascinating legacy. A

The Angry Birds Movie
Rated PG for rude humor and action
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 43%
Available on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K/Blu-ray 3D Combo
I’ll admit that I was a fan of the game for a long while. After all, I’m of Finnish descent and supporting Finland’s number one export by throwing birds at pigs seemed appealing to me. But this movie about birds getting angry at invading pigs is just a huge stretch. The animation is pretty, as to be expected, but the story is as lame as the jokes that miss every time they are flung. Maybe the young ones will enjoy, but I doubt the parents will want to be in the room when they do. C-

Once Upon a Time: Season 5
Not Rated
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
I’m not a big fan of soap operas, but if I was, I would really love this novel prime time soap from ABC which casts all of our favorite Disney (and some non-Disney) fantasy characters as they move in and out of our current time in search for the missing Merlin, who will sort out their Season 5 woes. The show is creative and fun if you love the universe they are in, but the acting isn’t great and the writing is rather immature, almost like a bunch of grade-schoolers playing during recess. B-

New in Home Entertainment – August 9, 2016

hanks

New in Home Entertainment

August 9, 2016

A Hologram for the King
Rated PG-13 for some sexuality/nudity, language and brief drug use
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 70%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Tom Hanks stars in this sleeper dramedy about a tech salesman who flies to Saudi Arabia in order to try to convince the king to purchase his company’s hologram technology. Since it is unknown when he will be able to meet with the king, since the king is rarely penned down, he must help his team prepare for the presentation while recuperating from an emergency surgery he was forced to have while there. The film itself almost exists in a dream state where you get the sense that Hanks is in true limbo, waiting for something to force him back onto the right track in his life. It’s well enough acted and crafted, and the story is unique, but it is as dry as the dessert where most of the film takes place. The film attempts to do away with most Americans’ stereotypes of the Muslim world by presenting a people more similar to us than different. But its bland originality won’t make it overly watchable to many audiences. B-

The Lobster
Rated R for sexual content including dialogue, and some violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Colin Farrell stars in this indie about a man who, after his wife leaves him, must move into a hotel where he has 45 days to find true love or else he will be turned into an animal of his choice, in his case – a lobster. At first it just seems eclectic, like a Charlie Kaufman film. But eventually, it starts to get annoying as you tire of deciphering the symbolism. I love the bizarre strangeness of the whole thing, and there is some laugh out loud comedy throughout, but it lies as proof that sometimes there is such a thing as too weird. I have to admit that I will be watching this one a time or two more, at least, because I feel there is something here that I might have missed on the surface. This lobster needs some digging. B

April and the Extraordinary World
Rated PG for action/peril including gunplay, some thematic elements and rude humor
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
This French animated film from the makers of the beautiful Oscar-nominated Persepolis explores the steampunk world of the artist Jacques Tardi. In it, events have taken place in the world that have prevented modern technology and instead the planet runs on steam. Born the daughter of two prominent scientists, April must hide alone with only her talking cat to keep her company, when her parents die trying to escape an evil regime determined to kidnap all known intellects. It’s a fascinating and creative world with a story reminiscent of a great Miyazaki film. Its target audience seems more teen-friendly than a youngster-skewing animated film, so don’t expect your kiddos to be as taken by it as you’ll be. A-

New in Home Entertainment – August 2, 2016

This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Keegan-Michael Key, left, and Jordan Peele in a scene from "Keanu." (Steve Dietl/Warner Bros. Entertainment via AP)

New in Home Entertainment

August 2, 2016

Keanu
Rated R for violence, language throughout, drug use and sexuality/nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 78%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key (Comedy Central’s Key and Peele) created this fresh comedy about two blerds (black nerds) who must rescue their kitten, named Keanu, from the possession of a dangerous gangster. Full of creative humor and equal parts raunchy, violent and adorable, Keanu takes a single joke to a high level. While there are some fairly stale moments and some random bits that fail to hit, the movie is, for the most part, a rather enjoyable experience from two of today’s best comedians. B

The Bronze
Rated R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity, language throughout and some drug use
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 33%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
I can only image the pitch meeting went something like “what if Kenny Powers from East Bound and Down were a washed up female Olympic gymnast?” Here a young gymnast (Melissa Rauch from The Big Bang Theory) known for her bronze medal in the Olympics that she won while injured, has turned into a bitter and entitled brat in her 20s. Forced to train the next Olympic star from her home town under the promise of money left to her in a will, she attempts to get serious enough to change her ways, at least for the short term. The comedy is rather dark and certainly requires a twisted sense of humor, but I rather liked it and can recommend it to a select audience. B

Lazer Team
Rated PG-13 for sexual material, including references, language, action violence, teen partying and smoking
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 55%
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Using crowdsourcing to raise $2.5 million, Austin-based film company Rooster Teeth made this relatively high-budgeted indie about four losers who gain super weapons in order to take on an alien foe determined to destroy the Earth. While it definitely has an indie feel to it, the movie looks completely professional in regard to sight, sound and special effects. But it also feels like they were a bit surprised they raised as much money as they did and I’m sure things would have been different in casting and production had they known what they were getting into. Still, you have to admire such an effort, and for mostly that reason the film is worth checking out. B-

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+