New in Home Entertainment – January 24, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

January 24, 2017

The Handmaiden
NR (But most likely would have been NC-17 if rated)
Language: Korean with English Subtitles
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
Park Chan-wook, the brilliant South Korean director behind Thirst and Stoker, gives us this sexy new crime drama set in Korea under Japanese colonial rule. The story follows a conniving “count” who wants to marry a rich young girl only to have her committed so he can steal her inheritance. To help him with his plan, he hires a fellow con artist to become her handmaiden for some inside assistance. For much of the first act, I began to wonder if Chan-wook has gone Merchant Ivory on us; but alas, once the story gets going, it evolves into one of his most ferociously twisted tales yet, full of multiple unexpected turns, savage violence and extremely graphic sex. That being said, if you are even slightly turned off by the last sentence, you need to leave this one alone. Then again, if you are a Chan-wook fan already or just love great movies of any kind regardless of subject, you might just come to love this one. A-

The Monster
Rated R for language and some violence/terror
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 78%
Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks) is a divorced mother who makes a late night trek to drive her young daughter to live with her father when their car crashes and they are stranded on a desolate highway with a creature that won’t let them escape. While it looks on the outside like an outright monster movie, the film plays surprisingly like an R Rated version of the similarly titled “A Monster Calls,” where the monster may or may not be real, but the pain and coping mechanism very much are. In this case, the mother struggles with alcoholism, which has greatly impacted her daughter. In spite of reasonably good reviews, the film is basically straight to home entertainment, probably because it is too smart for the genre it is pretending to be in. While there is plenty of gore and some decent scares, the film makes you question everything you’ve see – after you see it. B

New in Home Entertainment – January 17, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

January 17, 2016

The Girl on the Train
Rated R for violence, sexual content, language and nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 43%
Based on the best-selling novel by Paula Hawkins, this thriller hit theaters full-steam with great anticipation only to be met with a head-on collision by a disappointing box office. The story follows Emily Blunt as a young woman whose commute has her fixated on the life of a beautiful girl in a neighborhood she passes every day. Of course there is a lot of darkness in her own past that intertwines when she blacks out one night. The film has potential to be a fairly decent mystery but with the script written for the sake of the twist, the story feels mundane rather than innovative. It tries so hard to be Gone Girl but when the fuse burns up, we end up with a dud rather than fireworks. Sorry – I didn’t want to rack my brain for another more fitting train metaphor. C-

Keeping Up with the Joneses
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, action/violence and brief strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 19%
Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher are your average boring couple who are thrust into international espionage when spies Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot move into the house next door. I’m not sure if there is potential for success anywhere near this project, but its execution failed miserably as the movie lacks the comedy and adventure it promises. I love the casting of the four leads, but the missing elements (including script, directing and chemistry) bring the film to Razzie depths. D

Zero Days
Rated PG-13 for some strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%
If you want an in-depth, and I mean really in-depth, look at cyber warfare, check out this newest doc from Alex Gibney, the Academy Award winning filmmaker behind Taxi to the Dark Side and Going Clear. In this rather frightening film, Gibney shows his prediction of how the next World War will be fought with the real-life examples of the US and Israel meddling with the Iranian nuclear program as well as a whistle-blower describing the devastating effects cyber attacks can (and very well could) possess in the future. If you think this type of warfare ends with hacking an election, this film will give you a sobering look at the reality we don’t really understand yet. A-

New in Home Entertainment – January 10, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

January 10, 2016

Rated PG-13 for thematic material and brief strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 81%
In 1996, British Holocaust denier and Nazi scholar David Irving sued American Historian Deborah Lipstadt (and her publishing company) for libel, forcing her to go on trial in London to prove that the Holocaust actually occurred. This remarkable true story is masterfully acted with Rachel Weisz as Lipstadt and Timothy Spalling as Irving, providing an almost non-fiction feel to the gripping legal drama. It raises important questions such as how, in modern day, can we prove what is true and not true in our history books. And given today’s current political climate and the rise of a white nationalist movement, the film feels incredibly, and painfully, relevant.  A-

The Accountant
Rated R for strong violence and language throughout
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 51%
Ben Affleck stars in this action thriller about an autistic child who grows up to be a talented accountant and an even more talented assassin. The intriguing parts of the film dwell on autism and how autistic children can assimilate into productive adults. The sad thing about it is the shift to criminal behavior with a story that makes little sense. I can appreciate the plot twist, and Affleck’s performance is decent, but a lot of other great talent is wasted with bad dialog and throw-away parts.  C+

Jerry Maguire: 20th Anniversary Edition
Rated R for language and sensuality
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%
Twenty years ago, Tom Cruise showed us the money (more than a quarter billion worldwide) with this sweet and smart romantic comedy about a sports agent who suffers from a paradigm shift. Introducing us to Renee Zellweger and Cuba Gooding Jr. (who won the Oscar for his role), the film turned out to be a truly impactful emotional experience for much of its audience. You probably already own this one, so they’ve included a ton of extras to incentivize you to buy again. The most important of these features is the full soundtrack on CD and a booklet entitled “The Things We Think and Do Not Say: The Future of Our Business” laying out the words of Maguire that got him into such trouble in the beginning of the film.  A

New in Home Entertainment – December 20, 2016

New in Home Entertainment

December 20, 2016

Rated PG-13 for some peril and brief strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%
In director Clint Eastwood’s latest biopic, Tom Hanks stars as American hero Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the commercial pilot who successfully landed his plane on the Hudson River when things went suddenly wrong during take off. As much a character study as a direct reenactment of the events that took place, the film is terrifically executed and completely engaging. Hanks is at his best with his spot-on impersonation as he convincingly becomes Sully. While the ending trial sequence feels not only rushed but also slightly contrived, it doesn’t get in the way of telling this remarkable story. B+

Rated PG for mild action and some thematic elements
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 63%
In this somewhat forgettable Warner Brothers animated flick, storks have gone from delivering babies to delivering packages (think Amazon biological drones). When a baby girl is inadvertently created for delivery, a stork and a human go on a mission to secretly deliver her before the head of the company finds out. Of course the film is cute. You’d expect that with babies everywhere. Unfortunately, the plot is non-sensical and much of the project is a complete mess. Almost saving the day though are two wolves, voiced by Key and Peele, who upon discovering the baby, use their wolf pack to hilariously take her from her delivery team. In essence, these two come close to rescuing the film in the process. B-

If There’s a Hell Below
Not Rated but contains adult language and violence
This ultra-low-budget indie that hit the film festival circuit in 2016 is getting its day on DVD this week. While the misleading title suggests a horror film, the pic is actually a decent little thriller about a whistle blower who is paranoid about talking to a journalist, only to find out she has a right to be so. It’s not about the information in her head, as you don’t really ever get a glimpse of that side of the story. Instead it is an exercise in tension that is worth checking out when you need an excuse to bite your nails. B-

Bridget Jones’s Baby
Rated R for language, sex references and some nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 77%
It’s been a long while since Bridget (or Renee Zellweger) has graced the screen. But now she’s back and after getting pregnant by sleeping with 2 different men (Patrick Dempsey and Colin Firth) in a relatively short period of time. She has to somehow keep both on the hook in the hope of snagging the actual father after a paternity test can be performed once the baby is born. The movie has its moments with a few funny bits that bring hope to the project, but overall it’s a dull and mindless shadow of the first film, although maybe slightly better than the second. What was once a clever take on Pride and Prejudice has been reduced to an unsuccessful franchise tryst. C-

New in Entertainment – December 13, 2016


New in Home Entertainment

December 13, 2016

Suicide Squad
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action throughout, disturbing behavior, suggestive content and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 26%
After the dismal reviews of Batman V Superman, DC was looking for a hit with its story about the U.S. government hiring a group of super villains to take on a new threat facing the country. They even promised us the best Joker of all time in Jared Leto. But not even the good performances by Will Smith and Margot Robbie could save this mess of a script by the typically dependable David Ayer who both wrote and directed. The main villain was laughable as an all-powerful goddess and that great Joker they promised us? All style and no substance. Perhaps if slightly recast in some roles and an R rating stamped on the label, this could have been the fun ride we all thought we were promised, but as is, even with this new extended unrated cut, the film is yet another disappointing DC output. C-

Southside with You
Rated PG-13 for brief strong language, smoking, a violent image and a drug reference
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
In the style of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise films, Southside is a surprisingly refreshing story about what it could have been like if you took a camera on the first date between Barrack and Michelle Obama. While many won’t even consider this as a potential rental, if you can put politics aside I can’t imagine you won’t enjoy it. There’s no talk of healthcare or foreign policy, but rather just two intelligent people trying to figure out their place in the world and who they’d like to spend their lives with. It’s a sweet but smart talkie and a perfect date movie. A-

Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and disturbing images
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 25%
For those of you who have heard of the original 1959 film by the same title, which went on to win 11 Academy Awards including best picture, but didn’t want to invest the four hours of your life necessary to experience it, here’s a new two-hour version that offers plenty of chariot racing and a sort-of revenge tale. Giving the film some credibility is Morgan Freeman, completely out of place and not hiding it. Ultimately the film fails because it lacks energy and life. Where the previous edition had wow-factor galore and a chariot race decades ahead of its time in regards to special effects, this film staggers and suffers under its own attempt to outdo a masterpiece. C-

Phantasm: Remastered
Rated R for nudity, violence, and intense scenes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 70%
I was seven when this classic horror film first hit theaters, and when I finally got to see it a few years later I remember that little ball scaring the daylights out of me. Now, more than 30 years later, J.J. Abrams has done a fantastic HD restoration of the original print, hoping to scare people again with one of his favorite movies. Much of what I found scary then is simply funny now, but the nostalgia alone is worth taking this out for another ride. B-

New in Home Entertainment – December 6, 2016


New in Home Entertainment

December 6, 2016

Jason Bourne
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 56%
Director Paul Greengrass and actor Matt Damon are back together again, after defecting from the last Bourne movie, and this time things are exactly the same as always. Jason, still on the run, remembers a little bit more about who he is and goes after the man responsible, this time around that would be Tommy Lee Jones. While completely repetitive in regards to the franchise, the film still serves up quality action with superb pacing, but with nauseating camera work. If you are in for more mindless entertainment – you’re good here. If you’re looking for an intelligent action thriller, you are completely out of luck. C+

The Secret Life of Pets
Rated PG for action and some rude humor
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 75%
Universal’s original new animated feature pits a pair of dogs who upon getting lost, must find their way back to their owners apartment. Mostly funny, largely in part to the tremendous voice talents of Louis C.K and Kevin Hart, the film provides some really laughter-inducing entertainment that can be appreciated by adults while loved by children. It’s a bit predictable as you’d probably expect, but with some nice surprises thrown in throughout. It’s not even close to being the best animated film this year, but its flaws are forgivable. B

Don’t Think Twice
Rated R for language and some drug use
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 99%
Writer, director and star Mike Birbiglia here leads a New York City comedy troupe whose camaraderie is put to the test when when one of the members (Keegan-Michael Key) earns a spot on an SNL-like weekly television show. While not as funny as you think it will be, the movie has an authenticity that you won’t get from a film trying constantly to be hilarious. It shows the struggle to keep comedy as an art form while at the same time dealing with its daily disappointments when fame and money don’t follow along. While the end of the film does seem a bit over-scripted as it tries to reign in the story, it still remains lovable at heart. B+

The Hollars
Rated PG-13 for brief language and some thematic material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 43%
John Krasinski directs and stars in this comedy about a young man who must come home to deal with his family upon learning about his mother’s brain tumor. The talented cast, including Margo Martindale, Richard Jenkins, Anna Kendrick and Sharlto Copley, just can’t make this film what it should be. There are some very nice moments during the film, but it screams low-budget independent in a bad way with plot holes and errors throughout. It hopes to win you over with its heart but doesn’t have the legs to get there. C+

New in Home Entertainment – November 22, 2016


New in Home Entertainment

November 22, 2016

Kubo and the Two Strings
Rated PG for thematic elements, scary images, action and peril
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
This stunning stop-motion animated film from Focus follows the tale of young boy who must hide from and eventually battle his aunts and grandfather with only his magical musical instrument, a monkey and a giant warrior beetle to protect him. The tale is mesmerizingly creative from start to finish and is an overall artistic masterpiece. In a year filled with award-worthy animated films, I will predict that Kubo is the only film that might be able to compete with Moana for the Oscar. A

War Dogs
Rated R for language throughout, drug use and some sexual references
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 60%
From Todd Phillips, director of all three Hangover films, comes this “based-on-a-true-story” film about two young and ambitious punks (Jonah Hill and Miles Teller) who become arms dealers when the discover how easy it is to get rich off the U.S. government. The movie has its funny moments for sure, but while it is sold as a comedy, it is mainly a drama meant to shed light on our corrupt system and the abuses capable within it. While I found much of the subject intriguing, I was certainly not entertained as I found myself annoyed at both the prospects of the film being both possibly true and sensationalized. C+

Chicken People
Not Rated
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
In a country with diverse passions and interests, its always fun and refreshing to come across a documentary exploring weird subjects such as this documentary where folks come together to compete to see who has raised the most perfect chicken. I learned more about poultry and poultry competitions than I ever thought I would or ever wanted to. In the cynical and contentious place our country is in right now, its good to see our quirkiness come through in such a majestic and entertaining manner. A-

The Squid and the Whale: Criterion Edition
Rated R for strong sexual content, graphic dialogue and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
Getting the Criterion treatment this week is Noah Baumbach’s 2005 indie favorite about an eccentric Brooklyn family that is left in disrepair after an ugly separation. The performances from Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney and Anna Paquin are terrific but most memorable is the star-making awkwardness of Jesse Eisenberg whose horribly misguided decisions bring mostly empathy rather than disgust. It’s a thoughtfully strange little film with a ton of extras, as is usual with Criterion’s releases. B+

New in Home Entertainment – November 15, 2016


New in Home Entertainment

November 15, 2016

Finding Dory
Rated PG for mild thematic elements
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
Taking place directly after the events of 2013’s Finding Nemo, Finding Dory follows the blue tang with limited short term memory as she goes on a long journey to find her family, which she has only now started remembering. There’s no doubt that this Pixar mega hit gets a lot right. It is stunningly beautiful to look at, has some interesting new characters and is pretty engaging. My problems lie in the story, which feels too much like Finding Nemo, and the overall writing which isn’t merely creative as we’d expect from these artists. Compared to many other studios’ animated pictures, it is very good. But within the Pixar or Disney universe, it lacks the magic we are used to seeing on screen. I fully expect Moana and Zootopia to trounce Dory in the awards races this year. B-

Sausage Party
Rated R for strong crude sexual content, pervasive language, and drug use
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%
This raunch-fest from the minds of Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg (Superbad) follows a grocery store full of talking food as they long for the day they are purchased and brought home, until they discover the horrors that await them there. The story here is creative and fun and full of laughs, if your sense of humor allows this kind of overtly offensive material. For me, I found it to be mostly funny, although as it dives into a preachy and almost arrogant attack on religion, it does lose much of its comedic power. B-

Game of Thrones: The Complete Sixth Season
Rated TV-MA
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
For much of its life on HBO, Game of Thrones has remained one of the most popular shows in television history, in spite of, or maybe because of, its constant habit of killing off main characters, both hero and villain alike. In Season 6, there were constant surprises, but there were also more crowd-pleasing moments than in any of the previous seasons. But just because you have more to cheer for doesn’t mean you can let your guard down. The dram is riveting and they are setting up their last two seasons to be legendary. A

Dreams: The Criterion Collection
Rated PG
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 55%
While writer/director Akira Kurosawa is best known for his samurai films like The Seven Samurai and Rashoman, he also created many more quiet and introspective films such as 1990’s Dreams. Here Kurosawa shows his audience eight vividly colored vignettes based on his own visions. While I wouldn’t suggest this film to most of you out there, if you are a fan of Kurosawa, there is much to be excited about. This Criterion edition not only features a new 4K digital transfer, but also has a ton of new interviews and the 2011 documentary ‘Kurosawa’s Way’ featuring interviews with directors such as Alejandro Inarritu and Martin Scorsese (who also stars in one of the Dreams sequences as artist Vincent Van Gogh). B


New in Home Entertainment – November 8, 2016


New in Home Entertainment

November 8, 2016

Captain Fantastic
Rated R for language and brief graphic nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%
Viggo Mortensen and his six children live off the grid in Oregon, where he educates and trains them to be truly independent adults without the use of modern conveniences. Upon news that their mother has died, the family decides to re-enter society and attend her funeral in New Mexico. As smart as it is engaging, the film stays on course for two hours to deliver one heck of a great family road trip movie. Mortensen is the perfect actor for a project such as this and he is sure to receive some attention come award season. Overall, I ended up loving almost every happy and sad minute of this family’s transformative journey. A-

Star Trek Beyond
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%
In this latest Star Trek adventure, the crew goes on a rescue mission only to discover a trap set by a new alien villain set on destroying the Federation. So the plot is just like almost every other Star Trek movie and television show. Fortunately the writing and directing are strong enough to make the journey an enjoyable one. With J.J. Abrams switching sides to Star Wars, Fast and the Furious director Justin Lin takes the helm and the action is almost as strong as the eye-popping visuals. B

Rated R for language throughout
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%
Daniel Radcliffe stretches his acting muscle here in this drama about a young FBI agent who shaves his head and goes undercover to infiltrate the white supremacist movement. The film is as timely as it gets considering the attention these groups have received during the current election, and the threat of domestic terrorism here far overshadows that of the Muslim extremists we tend to spend most of our time worrying about. Radcliffe turns in a convincing performance, although his introduction into the world of skinheads and nationalists seems a bit too simplified. B

Rated R for violence and some disturbing images
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 66%
Based on a true story, Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan are two Czech spies who sneak into their homeland at the beginning of WWII in order to assassinate the man believed by many to be Hitler’s third in command, Reinhard Heydrich. It’s a dark and obviously perilous journey of two friends on a suicide mission, but despite its bleak undertones, the film is well-enough produced that it doesn’t become too depressing of an experience. When all is said and done, you feel more educated than downtrodden. B-

New in Home Entertainment – October 18, 2016


id4-resurgenceNew in Home Entertainment

October 18, 2016

Independence Day: Resurgence
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and destruction, and for some language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 31%
When Independence Day hit theaters 20 years ago, it was a fun, brainless exercise in entertainment that was more guilty pleasure than fine movie-making. With jaw-dropping special effects (for their time) and a fun cast of big movie stars like Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum and Harry Connick Jr., the movie was released at the perfect time, making it a big hit. But this newest attempt at franchise building seems dull in comparison. 20 years later, humans have stolen the technology of the aliens, but now the aliens are coming back with a vengeance. The story isn’t all that bad, but the execution is lousy. They brought back most of the old characters (Smith was wise enough to turn them down) without even thinking through if we even needed them, and we didn’t. The special effects are as good as you’d expect for a film such as this, but they don’t do anything to help make the film special. And the lousy box office results are another example of how audiences sent Hollywood a big message this last summer that spending all that money on familiar tentpole projects isn’t exactly the best investment. C-

Ice Age: Collision Course
Rated PG for mild rude humor and some action/peril
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 13%
In this fifth installment of the franchise that keeps on going whether or not we like it, Scrat the squirrel’s acorn quest sets off a chain of events that sends the regular crew on a new adventure into new lands. In a year where animated films will be vying for the top spots on many a top 10 list, this film solidly holds up the rear. It’s lack of humor or any semblance of good writing gives the audience more to cringe over rather than cheer for. Even my six-year-old, who loves anything animated, left the theater saying “it was okay.” It was not okay. The only saving grace are the Scrat interludes, which while not as original as their Oscar-nominated predecessors, still charm while they make you chuckle. D+