New in Home Entertainment – May 16, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

May 16, 2017

The Space Between Us
Rated PG-13 for brief sensuality and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 17%
This sweet sci-fi adventure kept getting pushed back and pushed back until it was released in theaters in February of this year, only to be met with a thud at the box office. Telling the story of a young boy who is born as his mother is on a mission to Mars, only to remain a secret until he comes to Earth to chase down the girl he has been secretly talking to online, The Space Between Us is a nice enough way to spend two hours and doesn’t deserve the bad critical rap or lean audience it was met with. The film has a few problems, but its stars, Asa Butterfield and Britt Robertson, cover for them admirably and I found the film to be far better than tolerable, even to the point where it is likable. 2016 proved a tough year for the sci-fi romance mash-up, but this attempt turned out a pretty solid teen romance with a nice twist. B

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
Rated R for sequences of violence throughout
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 33%
This sixth and apparently final chapter of the Resident Evil franchise finds Mila Jovovich heading back to Raccoon City to fight one last time with the Umbrella Corporation in order to find the antidote for the disease that has been thrust upon the planet. I don’t want to fool you into thinking that this is some kind of good film, but it’s not as bad as the others, which I guess is as close a compliment as I can muster. There are some nice revelations which makes the writing seem somewhat logical and planned, therefore giving the franchise a goal which I didn’t see coming. Yes it tries too hard to be a Mad Max/Walking Dead hybrid, but it just can’t seem to get there. I’m certain the fans of the series will have a greater appreciation, though, since it might be working through some pretense of creating a good ending more than creating a money-printing sequel. C+

XXX: Return of Xander Cage
Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of gunplay and violent action, and for sexual material and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 43%
For those that consider the Fast and Furious franchise to be too intellectual, there is XXX. This time Vin Diesel is back (rather than the last even more horrific outing with Ice Cube) to fight a rogue government agency who is committing assassinations with crashing satellites. The plot is awful but if you like action there is plenty of it there hoping to disguise the lack of a real story. I didn’t hate it but I did find it mind-numbing and only rarely impressive. I’m sure there’s an audience for this kind of film – but it ain’t me. C-

Paramount Classic Crime Drama Releases
With Mother’s Day gone, its time to start thinking about the dads and I am in love with the new classic Paramount releases this week including The Godfather Trilogy, Chinatown, The Untouchables, Chinatown and Road to Perdition, all in new Blu-ray editions for super cheap. While they don’t feature anything new per se, these are all must-own movies in a slick new packaging, and at around the $10 range, they won’t make you feel like you just got robbed.

New in Home Entertainment – May 9, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

May 9, 2017

A Dog’s Purpose
Rated PG for thematic elements and some peril
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 31%
Like a two-hour-long Hallmark commercial, A Dog’s Purpose attempts to force its audience to cry for pretty much the entire time by showing us multiple stories about a dog going from life to life, attempting to keep its humans happy in spite of their abilities to be good owners or not. While I doubt there are many who will love this film, I think most dog lovers (myself included) will appreciate it and its attempt to capture what it is to be a dog in search of love and acceptance from the world around it. Some of the stories are especially manipulative, such as the police dog storyline, but the truth hurts sometimes, which in its own cheesy way, this film attempts to portray. Yes it is sometimes cruel, but it nonetheless honest in its portrayal of our four-legged friends and what drives them to make us humans love them. C+

Heat
Rated R for adult situations/language, sex and violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%
In 1995 Michael Mann brought together Robert De Niro as a bank robber facing Al Pacino as a cop trying to bring him down, in one of the greatest crime dramas of the modern era. This new edition does offer an hour of decent new features, but it would have been nice to instead have a 4k restoration for us cinephiles who truly love this epic drama. So if you already own it on 1080p, this might not have enough to offer in order to purchase again, but if you don’t, or better yet if you haven’t seen it yet, this is one movie you must check out. A

Inside Amy Schumer: Season Four
Comedy Central’s hit sketch comedy show, featuring one of America’s hottest comics, takes a slight stumble after its amazing season 3 (The 12 Angry Men episode had me in stitches) but still provides a tremendous amount of laughter, although it is certainly hit and miss. The season starts off strong as she tries to perform for Hamilton’s Lin Manuel Miranda in a Hamilton knock off, but tends to bore in many of its later season sketches. Still, there is no doubt that this is one insanely funny and talented woman who is willing to take a chance to make us both laugh and think while she explores comedy’s edges. B-

New in Home Entertainment – May 2, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

May 2, 2017

The Salesman
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements and a brief bloody image
In Persian with English Subtitles
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
Iranian writer/director Asghar Farhadi claimed his second foreign film Oscar with this latest tale about a modern Iranian couple struck by tragedy and emotional damage when the wife is brutally attacked in their home. While the film was probably a huge benefactor of revolt against the recent travel ban, and even the speech upon winning was as much about politics as it was art, the storytelling here is excellent and worthy of accolades regardless. Farhadi’s films are a portal into a world and culture which we as westerners feel to be barbaric and alien, but upon further inspection appear to be incredibly similar to our own. This one in particular is an especially human tale for which it is easy to find empathy and introspection. The couple here are both professional actors performing Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, which truly allows the audience to connect with them both on stage and off as they deal with the heavy drama of their own lives. A-

The Red Turtle
Rated PG for some thematic elements and peril
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
This Oscar-nominated Studio Ghibli film finds a young man shipwrecked on a deserted island, desperate to escape. But every attempt to do so is thwarted by a strange creature whose goal is ultimate not sinister in nature. The film contains no words or subtitles and sweeps in and out like a vivid and beautiful dream. At first you find yourself a little sleepy, then pulled in, and finally mesmerized as you discover the secrets and ultimately live the adventure with him. While it is animated and rated PG, I don’t think the little ones will especially love it, but if they do – who knows – you may have a future cinephile on your hands. A-

I Am Not Your Negro
Rated PG-13 for disturbing violent images, thematic material, language and brief nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 99%
Upon his death in 1987, James Baldwin had written only thirty pages of a manuscript that was to become the book “Remember This House,” giving the personal account of the lives and assassinations of three of his close friends: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. Director Raoul Peck here, in this Oscar-nominated documentary, uses his words and archival footage to explore the Civil Rights movement in order to find a deeper connection to modern events. It is a fascinating and well-crafted doc that sheds light on an important era, while trying to make sense of it and its effects on the present. B+

Rings
Rated PG-13 for violence/terror, thematic elements, some sexuality and brief drug material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 6%
Both the original 1998 Asian import Ringu and the 2002 American remake starring Naomi Watts were terrifying films about a young girl trapped in a well and her revenge upon those unlucky enough to get a glimpse of her story on an ominous video tape. But the attempts to breathe life into the franchise have been a complete disaster. This latest one finds a young girl attempting to understand and help the evil spirit while those around her are meeting their doom. The sad thing is that there is potential here, but there is poor talent involved. The writing is atrocious as is the acting and directing. And while the subject matter has been proven to be scary, the images here are almost laughable. This is an unfortunate and lazy attempt at a sequel. F

April 18, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

April 18, 2017

Split
Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic content and behavior, violence and some language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 75%
M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense) has been slowly building back up from a disastrous string of monumental misfires including The Happening, The Last Airbender and After Earth (I actually liked After Earth, but I seem to be quite alone there). But with 2015’s The Visit and now Split, he’s back, ready to throw you another huge twist. In this latest thriller, James McAvoy is a psycho with 23 distinct personalities, who are all ready to unleash the 24th on the world after kidnapping three teenage girls. While I wasn’t quite taken with the plot, I absolutely loved the performance of McAvoy and think that the film is worth watching just for that reason alone. One of the things I found annoying is that usually the twist is clued and it is fun to try to figure it out. In this case though the big finale comes out of almost nowhere, making the film that much less enjoyable since it was virtually impossible to figure it out beforehand. B-

The Handmaid’s Tale
Rated R for adult situations/language, nudity, violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score 29%
When this film, based on the dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood, came out in 1990, it was a very controversial project. In the story, women throughout the world have become sterile. Those blessed with fertility are sent to pseudo-pseudo convents to be indoctrinated and farmed out for rich male leaders to have babies in spite of their sterile wives. In this case, Robert Duvall brings on Natasha Richardson to give he and his wife, Faye Dunaway, a child. The story and the subject are both relevant and quite frightening. Unfortunately for this project, the script is a mess and not even close to being ambitious enough for the subject. So why is the film coming out now? My guess is that with the current political climate and the new Hulu series based on the same book, they thought it was time to put on blu-ray. Unfortunately, the film still needs to be cleaned up and polished, and it doesn’t appear as if it got a scrub here. And while this version of the work is mediocre at best, I’ve heard amazing things about the new Hulu show, which pops on April 26. C

A League of Their Own
Rated PG for adult situations/language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 77%
Celebrating its 25th Anniversary is this classic comedy about a group of women who join an all-female baseball league while the men of the country are off fighting during WWII. Based on a true story, the film sports Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell as the dysfunctional team who must get their act together to succeed. When it first hit theaters, it felt like a fresh comedy. Now it feels like a period piece, although a good one. And while it has been overplayed, Hanks’s diatribe on crying in baseball is still one of the most iconic lines in movie history, giving the film, or at least the moment, a great relevance even today. B-

New in Home Entertainment – April 11, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

April 11, 2017

Hidden Figures
Rated PG for thematic elements and some language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
I felt for certain that, while this was a nice story, that it must be highly sensationalized to think that three black women could have had such an impact on NASA and their early astronaut program – at the height of the civil rights movement, a time when neither blacks nor women were allowed by many industries to truly contribute. But it doesn’t take a lot research to discover that their story is mostly true (some relationships, facts and drama had to be changed for the sake of the story). I’m also truly surprised this story hasn’t made it to the big screen yet. But I’m glad that their legacy got this movie as it is really well-made with three amazing actresses (Taraji P Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae) as the leads and a supporting cast filled with A-listers (Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons and the freshly-crowned Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali). And with a PG rating, the film is safe to inspire and teach all ages. A

 

Toni Erdmann
Rated R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity, language and brief drug use
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
This German import had a ton of buzz going for it when the Iranian drama The Salesman surprisingly beat it out at the Oscars, but it still racked up an impressive number of critical awards in 2016 and is worth a look if you are into foreign cinema. The story follows a lonely father who, after the death of his dog, decides to drop in on his workaholic daughter, pretending to be an eccentric businessman to her many coworkers and clients. While in America this might pass as a family drama with a sense of humor, here – this is German slapstick. And while the third act is a little over-the-top (get ready for a lot of nudity), the whole thing ends up as touching and smart as it is goofy. Personally, I didn’t think it was an Oscar-caliber film, but it is different and quirky, which are things I do like to see now and then. B+

Monster Trucks
Rated PG for action, peril, brief scary images, and some rude humor
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 32%
I am picturing some now out-of-work executive thinking to himself “kids love monsters and kids love trucks – so what if the truck was operated by a monster?” And so the studio gave him millions (the estimated budget was $125 million) and out came this dog turd of a movie. Officially, the story follows a high schooler who adopts a monster released from underground drilling, and then said monster learns to operate his pickup. Running from the oil company security team, the kid tries to deliver his new buddy, and his monster family, to safety. They were going for ET I’m sure, but didn’t quite hit their mark. The special effects are okay, and my six-year-old loved it, but let me tell you – it’s a challenge for adults to get through. D

New in Home Entertainment – April 4, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

April 4, 2017

Rogue One
Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of sci-fi violence and action
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%
Phase one of Disney’s Star Wars spinoff movies is this story, mentioned in the crawl of A New Hope, about a group of heroes who go in, under certain peril, to deliver to the rebellion the plans for the Death Star. With an exceptional cast, including Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Mads Mikkelsen, and my favorite go to villain Ben Mendelsohn, the film doesn’t lack in talent in any aspect. Director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla, Monsters) was an excellent choice and in spite of its very dark nature, it represents sacrifice and bravery in a way that is surprisingly okay for children. If Disney keeps doing the right thing by these new projects, then I expect big and exciting things to come from the Mouse House. A-

Office Christmas Party
Rated R for crude sexual content and language throughout, drug use and graphic nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 41%
Jennifer Aniston and TJ Miller are siblings who own a company in bad need of a break, so against his sister’s command, Miller throws a party, with the help of Jason Bateman, to lure a key customer. Of course this turns into something worse than an out of hand fraternity party. As far as stories go, this one goes a little far, but if you are in the mood for a bunch of bad behavior from a talented cast of comedic actors, it might give you what you are looking for. It did have me laughing at times, but a classic Christmas comedy it is not. C

Why Him?
Rated R for strong language and sexual material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 40%
Yet another raunchy comedy that landed with a lukewarm thud is this take on bringing home the parents to meet the boyfriend. In this case, Bryan Cranston is the uptight dad who must meet his daughter’s crazy and unfiltered millionaire boyfriend played by James Franco. While it’s no Get Out (wrong genre I know, but it does star Keegan-Michael Key so it is related in more way than one), it is a surprisingly sweet movie, that while completely predictable, serves up some very funny jokes to make up for its lack of nuance. All of the characters are likable, although I can’t imagine a father being this overprotective in such a situation. So while I did not love it, I did find it mildly entertaining, which is something I didn’t think I would say given its critical and box office reception. B-

Paterson
Rated R for some language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Adam Driver (Silence, The Force Awakens) stars in this indie Jim Jarmusch film about a bus driver named Paterson, who lives in Paterson, NJ and who likes to write poetry. The movie takes place over a week and has almost zero in plot, but due to the likability of the characters and its gentle nature, the lack of story seems almost forgivable. You sit in his driver’s seat and listen to the conversations, watching him listen to other peoples’ stories rather than living out his own. If it sounds dull – well it is. It’s sweet, but quite boring. And like all of Jarmusch’s films, it is art house fare with no disguise. C+

New in Home Entertainment – March 27, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

March 28, 2017

Silence
Rated R for some disturbing violent content
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%
According to Martin Scorsese, he has been working on this film based on the 1966 novel for 28 years. To put that into perspective, that means that when he was making Goodfellas and Cape Fear – this film was going through his mind. And its stars, Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge) and Adam Driver (The Force Awakens) were still in grade school. The story follows two Jesuit missionaries who head to feudal Japan in the 1600s in order to locate and rescue their mentor, played here by Liam Neeson. If they are found, they will be captured and tortured. But if they don’t locate their mentor and help the struggling people, they will have failed in their mission. The film is made with the utmost of integrity and sincerity and you can see how meaningful it was to Scorsese throughout every minute. Sure its a tough one to watch, and you must contend with a three hour run-time, but it is a marvelous work of art worth the investment of your time and energy. A

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Rated PG-13 for some fantasy action violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 73%
In this Harry Potter spinoff prequel, and going off of a JK Rowling screenplay, a young wizard named Newt Scamander shows up in New York City to rescue some magical creatures when he happens upon a situation within the wizarding world of America that needs his help. What has been sold as the first of a very large franchise, Fantastic Beasts delivers a terrific story, not overly-dependent on the Harry Potter series, but that will most likely set up some major plot points in the Potter tales that we aren’t aware of yet. It has the right amount of comedy, action and charm to keep you fully engaged and desirous of more stories from the Potter world. A-

20th Century Women
Rated R for sexual material, language, some nudity and brief drug use
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%
In this thoughtful and touching dramedy, Annette Bening stars as a single mother to a young boy in the late 70’s who tries to raise him right, fully aware that he is growing up with an over-abundance of women in his life. Bening definitely shines in this pic, but the supporting cast, including Lucas Jade Zumann, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig and Billy Crudup, gives the film that something special, leaving you with a thought of your own family story in your head as you reach its touching finale. A-

A Monster Calls
Rated PG-13 for thematic content an some scary images
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
In order to deal with his mother’s terminal illness, a young boy finds an unlikely friend and protector in a giant tree monster, voiced by Liam Neeson. In spite of great reviews and eye-popping visual effects, the film fizzled at the box office, bringing in less than four million domestically. If I had to guess why, people just didn’t want to cry in January. You can’t even get through the trailer without balling, so to sit through 108 minutes was too much to ask most audiences. But it is a well-made film, and sometimes you need a good, solid cry. So go get a pint of your favorite ice cream, a box of tissue, and prepare yourself to open up the water works. B+

New in Home Entertainment – March 21, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

March 21, 2017

Passengers
Rated PG-13 for sexuality, nudity and action/peril
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 31%
Set in the distant future where mankind hibernates in deep sleep in order to relocate to distant planets, Chris Pratt, and later Jennifer Lawrence, wake up 90 years before the end of their 120 year journey, to find that they are alone in their predicament and unable to go back into hibernation. As the ship starts to suffer from malfunction, they must figure out to how to repair the ship or risk losing the thousands of other lives still sleeping. The story here is fantastic and you can’t beat the pair of actors for both talent and chemistry. Unfortunately, the last act just doesn’t set in right, ultimately leaving the audience disappointed. If you are wondering why this wasn’t a mega-hit, it was simply due to bland word of mouth. It’s not a bad film, but its hardly one you can get passionate about, and with the pedigree found here, this needed to be a film that blows you away in order to succeed. Still, its worth checking out now that you can watch it at home. Side note: if you do watch it and you start to get a WALL-E vibe, that’s probably due to the fact that Thomas Newman composed the scores for both projects, and they are similar throughout. B-

Miss Sloane
Rated R for language and some sexuality
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71%
In this box office dud, Jessica Chastain is a high power Washington lobbyist who tries to force through a bill that would enact common-sense gun regulations, only to find herself in the battle of her life as she fights the gun manufacturers. This is a case of a very good film that didn’t have the common sense of a smart release date. So while they were trying to sneak into the awards scene (Chastain was worthy of some love here), they ended up getting buried at both the box office and the trophy hunt. But the film is worth checking out, especially if you have feelings towards the argument. B+

Sing
Rated PG for some rude humor and mild peril
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 73%
In this very colorful but story-dull animated feature from Illumination Entertainment (Minions) comes this tale of koala who attempts to save his theater by holding a singing competition. And of course the different animals have all sorts of backgrounds and reasons for wanting to win the contest. While my young son liked the movie (not nearly as much as everything else he saw over the holiday), I found little use for it. The majority of the film was trying to show off how creative it was, but with little substance to prove its point. I tell my son not to call people or things stupid, but honestly, stupid applies really well here. D

Live By Night
Rated R for strong violence, language throughout, and some sexuality/nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 35%
In the follow up to his Oscar win for best director for Argo, Ben Affleck takes on this prohibition-era gangster film, adapted from the novel by Dennis Lehane. While I’m sure there’s a decent movie hidden away in here, this project seems to have gotten away from him. Maybe it was rushed to take a shot at awards, or maybe it was a mess throughout the project, but it is overly long (run time is 128 minutes but feels like Godfather-length) and painful at times to sit through. And to make matters worse, Affleck is terrible for the leading role, and he should have had the sense to cast a much more fitting actor while he helmed. This was truly one of the worst films of 2016. D-

New in Home Entertainment – March 14, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

March 14, 2017

Fences
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, language and some suggestive references
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
Built off of the original Broadway production from playwright and screenwriter August Wilson, and starring basically the same cast, Fences tells the story of a black garbage collector in 1950s Pittsburgh (Denzel Washington) who boasts of the days he used to play ball in the Negro Leagues before the color barrier was broken, while his wife (Oscar-winner Viola Davis) and family struggle under his drinking, cheating and temper. You can probably tell already that the story isn’t going to cheer you up and make your day brighter, but the main reason to watch this drama is the collection of remarkable performances, most notably those of Washington and Davis. It is a literal masterclass in dramatic performance and a wonderful way to immortalize Wilson’s powerful work. A-

Jackie
Rated R for brief strong violence and some language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
Natalie Portman here takes on the role of a lifetime as Jackie Bouvier Kennedy, telling the story of the days immediately following her husband’s assassination. Portman does an exceptional job portraying the unique mannerisms that Kennedy was known to possess, while at the same time not giving in to the grief and panic the world expected from her. While the performance was solid, the film is unexpectedly bland and forgettable. It washes in and out like a dream, and sticks around in your head just as long. B-

Drunk History: Season 4
What started off as viral web series is now in its fourth season on Comedy Central and the show is still just as funny and engaging. The premise is that comedians and historians tell a story from history while getting drunk with the host, and then famous actors and actresses reenact the scene, in period costume, mouthing the words of the drunk storytellers as they tell them. This season ends with an ultra-celebrity as Lin Manuel Miranda gets drunk telling Hamilton stories with Aubrey Plaza and Alia Shawkat as Burr and Hamilton. It’s the best balance between learning and laughter that I can imagine experiencing. B+

New in Home Entertainment – March 7, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

March 7, 2017

Moana
Rated PG for peril, some scary images and brief theatrical elements
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
Disney’s latest princess flick heads to the Pacific Islands as a chieftain’s young daughter wishes to save her dying island by leaving against her father’s will in order to try to force a missing demi-god (played by Dwayne Johnson) to aid her. The story itself is strong enough to carry the film, but when you throw in musical numbers from Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda and some of the prettiest animation ever to come out of the mouse house, you end up with a monster hit with a huge emotional punch. I really thought that this would be the Oscar winner for best animated film this year (Disney’s other hit Zootopia won) but with such competition, Moana had a bear of a time vying for the three awards that would have normally come easy for it: animated, song and score. But who cares? At my house this was the movie that won the year, and will no doubt be a favorite for years to come. A

Rules Don’t Apply
PG-13 for sexual material including brief strong language, thematic elements and drug references
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 55%
It’s been nearly twenty years since Warren Beatty has written, directed and starred in a movie (the last time was 1998’s Bulworth), and this time he’s back with a story about a young actress and her chauffeur (Lily Collins and Alden Ehrenreich) who work for the reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes (played by Beatty). The film tries at time to be a comedy, a romance and a drama, but misses on all three fronts, and ultimately left me scratching my head at what I just saw. Not helping is the 126 minute running time that feels more like three hours. I’m not certain if this is the case – but the film felt rushed – like they were desperately trying to get this out to voters in time for their deadlines without stopping to think if it was ready enough to be a contender. Then again, I’m not sure if this project ever had the potential to hit that kind of chord. C