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+

X-Men: Days of Future Past

X-Men: Days of Future Past
Starring Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence
Directed by Bryan Singer (X-Men)
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and sci-fi violence and action, some suggestive material, nudity and language

    One of the most popular stories in the X-men comics is this tale of how Wolverine (Jackman) is sent into the past in order to stop Mystique (Lawrence) from committing an action that would devastate the world and potentially destroy all mutants in the future.  While in the past he must convince an apathetic Professor X (McAvoy) and a malicious Magneto (Fassbender) to help him stop her. 

    If you are tired of pointless and thoughtless super hero films that attempt to distract you into forgetting the need for a plot – then this is the right film for you.  Just like X-Men, X2 and X-Men: First Class, this is an extremely well-written and trippy script that will excite your intellect while keeping your adrenaline at maximum output. 

    When X-Men: First Class first hit theaters in 2011, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and James McAvoy were just becoming famous.  Now, however, the stars have become A-listers and with the combination of the old and new X-Men casts, the films is so full of amazing actors that it literally busts off of the screen.  And not one of them is just “phoning it in” here.  Each and every one of the actors and actresses owns their characters and puts everything they have into them.  This makes the movie that much more fun to watch. 

    When you combine the artistry of the actors with the brilliance of director Bryan Singer and a slick, extremely well-written screenplay and over the top production values, you end up with one amazing super-hero movie.  Speaking of production, something I have didn’t catch before but that truly impresses me is the talent of John Ottman who not only delivers a score that perfectly fits the film, but who also masterfully edits the film as well.  He did this before on all of Singers films since 1993’s Public Access but for some reason I didn’t catch on until now.  I can’t tell you how awe-struck I am with this dual threat behind-the-scenes filmmaker. 

    My one bit of concern is that I get asked a lot “is it safe to take my kids?”  The X-Men comics and movies are meant for late teens and this film is no exception.  There is bad language, nudity and a tremendous amount of violence and I would caution parents of young children who don’t want to expose their grade schoolers or even junior high aged kids to this kind of graphic material.  A

New in Home Entertainment – May 20, 2014

New in Home Entertainment

May 20, 2014

Rated PG-13 for intense battle sequences, disaster-related action and brief sexual content
Available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D

The first I had ever heard of Pompeii was in my 20s on a trip to Rome.  This was around the time of the Titanic release and my head quickly said – this would make a great Titanic-like love story.  After all, love with impending disaster seems to be a recipe for success.  Now, almost 20 years later, comes the movie Pompeii, which follows a young gladiator slave who falls in love with a wealthy young woman in Pompeii, right as Mount Vesuvius is about to blow.  The production itself is actually really well-done and from what I’ve researched, presents a very accurate reproduction of what Pompeii looked like back in the day.  Unfortunately the story is a mess and the acting suffers because of it.  I’m sure someone pitched it as Gladiator meets Titanic and then the screenwriters did just that – without an ounce of originality aside from the apparent factually incorrect disaster sequence.  It’s a shame the movie couldn’t have met the same fate as the city.  D

Monuments Men
Rated PG-13 for some images of war violence and historical smoking
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Yet another instance of a great story, poorly served by its screenplay.  This time the writer is George Clooney (who also directs and stars).  The cast is remarkable with Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin and many other talented actors.  But telling the true story of the men and woman who were responsible for rescuing mountains of Europe’s greatest artistic treasures from the Nazis during WWII comes off as noble but rather boring.  The pacing is slow and the talents of the cast come off as way underutilized.  If you find the subject interesting, make sure to check out the masterful 2007 documentary “The Rape of Europa” which explores the Nazi Party’s fascinating art obsession.  C+

God Loves Uganda
Unrated but contains strong graphic content
Available on DVD

To get a 100% Rotten Tomato score is no easy feat, but you’ll quickly understand how God Loves Uganda achieved this after watching.  This 2013 documentary explores the work of American evangelical Christians in Uganda and how they managed to convince the Ugandan government to create harsh laws, including the death penalty, against the gays and lesbians.  The surprising thing about the doc is that it doesn’t roast the young Christian missionaries, but rather tries hard to show their integrity and their hearts.  But at the same time it demonstrates the evil of their impact and the lack of love and understanding shown to the people who they are successfully influencing.  It is a heart-breaking movie that will open a lot of eyes to the injustices occurring within this African country.  A

American Jesus
Available on DVD

In this documentary, Spanish filmmaker Aram Garriga attempts to show his audience the many ways that modern-day Americans practice their Christianity.  It is a fascinating look at what not only makes Christianity unique as a religion but what makes America unique as a country.  While the many different viewpoints and ministries might frustrate some conservative believers, many others, like myself, will be fascinated by the many different pathways there are to Jesus.  I’ll admit that some of these might seem kind of whacky (I just can’t understand dancing with a rattlesnake or tearing phone books for worship), but they are all treated with respect and seriousness within the confines of the film.  A-