New in Home Entertainment – January 27, 2015



New in Home Entertainment

January 27, 2015

The Interview
Rated R for pervasive language, crude and sexual humor, nudity, some drug use and bloody violence
Available on Netflix and VOD. DVD and Blu-ray coming February 17
I’m so relieved. I finally got to watch The Interview last night on Netflix and I’m still alive. I’m even more relieved that I liked the movie. This raunchy comedy follows James Franco and Seth Rogen as they attempt to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un. A month ago the film got more press, good and bad, than perhaps any other holiday project in history. But when theater chains across the country decided to chicken out of showing the movie, Sony was forced to exhibit in smaller chains and VOD only. As of this week, the film is available for Netflix subscribers. While its not the most hilarious thing you’ll see this year, it does have some very big laughs. Sure Franco is a little miscast and many of the jokes aren’t particularly funny, but overall the movie is entertaining and politically savvy. B

The Judge
Rated R for language including some sexual references
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
In this newest courtroom drama, Robert Downey Jr plays a big city attorney who upon returning home for his mother’s funeral, is forced to defend his father (Robert Duvall), who happens to be the town’s judge, for killing a local man. Wanting so hard to play like a Grisham movie, Judge might overreach at times, but the acting is excellent from the talented cast, and any misgivings of the script or story are ultimately forgivable. If it weren’t for the 141 minute running time, the film might have been a bigger hit than it ended up being. B

Available on DVD
This warped little ensemble piece follows a group of dinner guests who, on the night of a comet passing, discover that their neighborhood is full of houses full of the same exact guests, having the same dinner party. It is an unusually complex film that you just kind of try to forgo logic and just sit back, hoping you are still sort of with them at the end of the ride. At ninety minutes, the weirdness doesn’t rot your brain and honestly, its pretty fun. It might be even more fun with a couple glasses of wine on board. B+

Kill the Messenger
Rated R for language and drug content
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Based on a true story, Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) stars as Pulitzer Prize-winning Journalist Gary Webb, who upon uncovering CIA secrets about drugs in South America and the U.S., puts his career, himself and his family in danger for messing with the wrong people. I really loved the first half of the movie. Watching the little guy go against the powers that be and win is a rush. But then the powers that be make their move and the rest of the film gets long and absolutely depressing. It becomes such a challenge to watch that you just want to give up. While the truth can make for great stories, it can also be quite miserable as well. While I feel this story does need to be told, I have to think there is a better way to tell it. C

New in Home Entertainment – January 20, 2015


New in Home Entertainment

January 20, 2015

Rated R for strong violence, disturbing images and sexuality
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
This unexpected box office hit from Fifth Element writer/director Luc Besson follows Scarlett Johansson as an unfortunate young woman who is accidentally given an overdose of a powerful drug which allows her to go from using 10% of her brain to 100%. As you’d expect from the visionary French director, the film is highly stylized and full of fun action. But also as expected, the film is full of scratch your head moments that could have been easily fixed had Besson just done some simple research or had a better advisory team. I don’t mind a filmmaker using a little creative license here and there, but there are way too many moments that have the ability to take you out of the film, which I personally find inexcusable. If you find yourself saying too many times, “that wouldn’t happen like that” or “why would she possibly do that?” then there is too much distraction to make this a solid piece of entertainment. C+

Rated R for intense sequences of disturbing violence and terror
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
One of the side stories of the wonderfully frightening 2013 horror film The Conjuring was that of a doll named Annabelle, which is based on a real doll, still located in the Warren’s home today. Here the story goes back to the early seventies where a young couple are haunted by a doll after a cultist bleeds her soul into her. While a bit hair raising at times, Annabelle remains largely unscary and unfortunately a bit dull. Unlike The Conjuring, the film lacks the authenticity it needs to make it a horrifying experience. Whereas a lot of these types of films just make poor decisions which lead to failure, the poor decision here is making the movie. I really don’t think there’s a story worth telling and that the whole project is a desperate attempt to capitalize on the success of its predecessor. D

The Boxtrolls
Rated PG for action, some peril and mild rude humor
Available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D
This stop motion animated gem follows a group of trolls who wear boxes (thus the name) and the little boy they adopt when his life was in danger. It’s a nonsensical adventure set in a crazy universe, and it absolutely works. Sure it’s ugly to look at, but it’s a marvelous ugly that you can’t take your eyes off of. It might be a little much for the young kids, but for older children and adults it is terrific little fantasy. While it didn’t get much love at the box office, it did latch onto an Oscar nomination – something The Lego Movie could not accomplish. A-

Jimi: All is By My Side
Rated R for language including sexual references, sand some drug content
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
I’m not sure what exactly happened to the theatrical release of this biopic following the life of famed rocker Jimi Hendrix, but after watching this blu-ray, I was quite confused about the its lack of traction. So many biopics have been released throughout the last few years, and yet so many of them miss the boat. Not this one. Writer/Director John Ridley creates here a terrifically entertaining flick that really spells out what it must have been like to have been around Jimi in the early days of his career. It is thrilling, funny, touching and completely engaging. OutKast’s Andre Benjamin is amazing as the rock god and he should have gotten a lot more love for this role than he did. My only gripe is that the movie cuts off before Jimi heads to America to become the legend we know today. A

Rated R for language
Available on DVD
William H. Macy directs this Once-like musical about a man whose life is torn apart after a tragedy involving his son. Years after going off of the grid, he discovers a box of demo tapes his son made and attempts to get to know him better through his music. Overall, I really like the idea of the film. The music is really good, and the story is touching. The story could have been so much better though had it just been tweaked in a few areas. Also, while Billy Crudup and Anton Yelchin do a great job, Felicity Huffman phones it in and Selena Gomez’s character should have been cut entirely. B-

New in Home Entertainment – January 13, 2015

Gone Girl

New in Home Entertainment

January 13, 2014

Gone Girl
Rated R for a scene of bloody violence, some strong sexual content, nudity, and language
Available on Blu-ray and DVD
Based on the best-selling novel by Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl follows the world of a husband (Ben Affleck) who is under suspicion for killing his wife (Rosamund Pike) when she goes missing. Twisted and sadistically funny, Gone Girl is masterfully directed by David Fincher and written for the screen by Flynn herself. What I loved most about Gone Girl is that I KNEW which direction the film was going in, until I discovered how wrong I really was. When a film takes you completely by surprise and then blows you away, its hard not to fall in love with it, even when the material is this dark. A

The Two Faces of January
Rated PG-13 for some violence, language and smoking
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst are a couple traveling through Greece in the 60’s when they run across a young, semi-distrustful tour guide played by Oscar Isaac. When Mortensen gets in trouble at his hotel, Isaac comes to the rescue to help them try to escape Greece. While I enjoyed the production, or rather their reproduction of 1960’s Greece, the film is one of the least thrilling thrillers I’ve seen this year. One of the biggest problems is that its hard to feel empathy for any of the characters, so when bad things happen, who cares? It’s a shame too, because all three of the actors are fantastic and worthy of much greater material. C-

Men, Women & Children
Rated R for strong sexual content including graphic dialogue throughout – some involving teens, and for language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
One of my favorite writers/directors in recent years is Jason Reitman, who has come on the scene strong with Juno and Up in the Air. This time around he takes on relationships between a host of deeply flawed characters living in a world of social media. Starring an impressive ensemble cast, the movie ultimately fails due to their not being a likable character in the entire script. While some are better than others, pretty much everyone is a turd in the punchbowl, and I for one quickly grew thirsty for something else. D

Black Sails: The Complete First Season
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Some of my favorite guilty pleasures from recent years have come from television shows based on historical bad guys like gladiators, vikings and now pirates. This ambitious and well-crafted show from Starz creates a fun world based on pirates of old that is as naughty as it is violent. While I’m assuming its not in the least bit realistic, it is a lot of fun watching the action-packed drama unfold. And it doesn’t hurt that the production values are first rate. I can’t wait to see how they continue things in season 2, starting January 24. B+

New in Home Entertainment – January 6, 2015

xxhawke 1

New in Home Entertainment

January 6, 2014

Rated R for language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
For twelve years, Texas filmmaker Richard Linklater filmed a fictional movie about the life a young boy (played by newcomer Ellar Coltrane) who we get to watch as he grows up to be a man. Not only is the movie a brilliant portrayal of a life’s journey, but it also serves as a wonderful vision of growing up in Texas. Filmed around Houston, Austin, San Marcos, Big Bend and other familiar spots to most of us, the film serves as great nostalgia both for our childhoods and our state as we are given points of reference most of us will easily recognize. While it was probably the most talked-about movie in Hollywood in 2014, it is surprising that it took in only about 24 million at the box office. Then again, its disc and streaming take should be a significant improvement, especially after it brings home a bucketful of awards this coming season. A+

Get on Up
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, drug use, some strong language, and violent situations
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
In his followup to his multiple Oscar-nominated film The Help, Tate Taylor tells the story of the notorious R&B artist James Brown. Zipping back and forth around time periods in Brown’s life, the film is easy enough to follow, but tends to meander quite a bit and fails to make interesting any character besides Brown himself. That being said, Chadwick Boseman is dynamite as Brown and its hard to imagine a better performance of the iconic figure. It’s a performance worth watching, even if the rest of the film is not. B-

The Trip to Italy
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
This sequel to 2010’s The Trip once again follows actors Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan as two friends, this time traveling around Italy discussing its unbelievable cuisine. Three of my favorite things in the world are travel, good food and laughter and this film makes for the perfect combination. It is a joy to watch the extremely cynical and sarcastic duo let loose, although some of the drama I found extremely distracting. For example, while probably realistic, the infidelity introduced into the script makes the characters, who are playing themselves mind you, almost too fallible. I wish they had toned much of drama from the scripted portions of the movie and just left us with more Italy, food and laughter. A-

The Guest
Rated R for strong violence, language, some drug use and a scene of sexuality
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
While highly praised by critics and audiences, this indie slipped into and out of theaters with little fanfare. Unfortunately the poster only shows a good-looking actor (Dan Stevens) wearing a backpack and holding a gun, and doesn’t give a clue about what the audience should expect. Once you get watching you discover that this is a demented Bourne Identity-like tale with a twisted edge and a lot of bad behavior. Sure it’s a total B movie with good production values, but it’s also well-crafted and a lot of fun, in spite of its story-telling flaws. And Stevens is terrific as the good guy/bad guy houseguest with questionable intentions. B

Dinosaur 13
Rated PG for mild thematic elements, language and brief smoking
Available eon DVD and Blu-ray
I have been extremely impressed with CNN’s launch into the feature documentary market over the last couple of years and this newest entry, while not perfect, is unforgettable. Exploring the discovery of Sue the dinosaur and the controversial events following her excavation, Dinosaur 13 is an upsetting yet enlightening view of modern paleontology and the U.S. government’s overreach and abuse. While it does have a made-for-tv feel to it, that doesn’t make it any less powerful. B+