New in Home Entertainment – April 24, 2012

New in Home Entertainment

April 24, 2012


Rated R for violence, pervasive language and brief drug use
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

In order to protect his brother-in-law from a ruthless drug-dealer, a former smuggler (Mark Wahlberg), is forced to commit to a smuggling operation bringing in a large amount of counterfeit bills into America from Panama.  I’ll warn you right off – Contraband is a B-movie all the way.  The plot is silly, the characters are predictable, and the writing isn’t top-notch.  What sets the film apart though is the both the quality of the talented cast and terrific production values.  You actually get a sense that you understand both the shipping and the smuggling business after watching this film.  There is an organic quality about it that allows you be taken in and entertained.  So while its not a good movie, it is at times a very fun and interesting one.  B-

Rated R for sexual content and language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

An inner-city teenager struggles with her identity as her friends and family begin to discover that she is gay.  This highly praised film from relatively new writer/director Dee Rees is a challenging yet rewarding picture about a subject that is completely foreign to most of its audience.  It is hard to imagine what a character such as this has to go through in this scenario, and even harder to imagine a member of the audience not being touched.  Rees does an excellent job of bringing empathy on not just the heroine, but to the people around her as well.  Its as if the villain isn’t really a person, but rather the misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the situation pertaining to the main character.  B

Shogun Assassin

Rated R for violence, nudity and rivers of blood
Available on Blu-ray

I thought I was a big martial arts fan, and that I was familiar with most of the classics, but this cult title somehow slipped under my radar until now.  Following the saga of Lone Wolf and Cub (billed here as the greatest team in the history of mass slaughter), a father and young child travel Japan on a quest of vengeance for the brutal murder of their respective wife and mother.  This new set includes all five films in the series, all in beautiful HD, which makes the blood that much more red boy does it flow.  Just like many of the Asian films from this time period, it is extremely gory, but moreover, it is a blast to watch.  It’s truly corny at times, but in a good way.  B+

New in Home Entertainment – April 17, 2012

New in Home Entertainment

April 17, 2012

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

While it seems that some of the franchise pics we have seen over the last year have gotten lamer with time (best example – Twilight), a couple have really knocked it out of the park, namely Harry Potter and Mission Impossible.  Mission Impossible was a very welcome edition to the relatively disappointing holiday season this past December.  Just like Harry, the film was left off many critics top 10s as well as many best-of ballots, in spite of the fact that both films landed a mid-nineties score on Rotten Tomatoes.  Moreover, just like the film about the boy wizard, the new Mission Impossible is pretty darn great.  Putting Tom Cruise and crew in a battle where they are the enemy of everyone and must clear their names before they are killed, the plot is entertaining and doesn’t get in the way of the extreme action.  To say this film will have you biting your nails is an understatement, especially if you are as afraid of heights as I am.  Former Pixar director Brad Bird (The Incredibles) does an incredible job of transitioning to the real-people world and the overall production here is insane – in a good way.  A

Rated NC-17 for some explicit sexual content
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Relative newcomer Michael Fassbender, in both a career-making and award-winning role, plays a man in New York City dealing with his out-of-control sex addiction when his sister (Carey Mulligan) moves in with him and forces him to face his illness.  Don’t let the NC-17 fool you here.  This is not a sexy film in the least.  In fact it is the un-sexiest film about sex you are likely to ever see.  This film very accurately shows the world of a sex-addict and sheds a new light on the disease which until now has mostly just been made fun of or at the very least been misunderstood.  Both Fassbender and Mulligan turn in amazing performances and director Steve McQueen deserves kudos for not only making such a hard-hitting drama, but for having the bravery to not cut the film to an R which could have killed its integrity.  This is not a film for everyone – not even close.  But if you are in the mood for a good drama and important social commentary, and if the kids are either asleep or out of the house, this is an excellent choice.  B+

The Iron Lady
Rated PG-13 for some violent images and brief nudity
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Don’t get me wrong, I love Meryl Streep, but these awards should be given for acting and not merely impersonations.  Winning two Academy Awards for best actress and best make-up, The Iron Lady excels in creating a life-like replica of Margaret Thatcher in this biopic, but fails to create a watchable film.  Streep is not to blame here and does an admirable job of portraying the famed British politician, but the script and directing are all over the place.  The story is so difficult to follow that you become apathetic to its problems by the end.  And while I feel that I know Thatcher a little better now having seen this, I feel I would have been better off watching a history channel doc on her life instead.  C-

IMAX: Born to Be Wild

Rated G
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Just like Disney, Warner Brothers has gotten into the Earth Day festivities by releasing a spectacular-looking nature film.  Born to Be Wild, through the narration of Morgan Freeman, focuses on baby elephants and orangutans who are protected from birth and raised in captivity until they can safely be released back into the wild.  At 41 minutes in length, it doesn’t have nearly the amount of storytelling of the Disney-nature releases, but what little time is spent with these animals is magical.  You and your families will find yourselves to be engaged, entertained, enlightened, and thoroughly enchanted.  A-

The Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods

Starring Chris Hemsworth, Richard Jenkins and Kristen Connolly
Directed by Drew Goddard
Rated R for strong bloody violence and gore, language, drug use and some sexuality/nudity

    Serenity writer/director Joss Whedon and Cloverfield writer Drew Goddard team up for this new take on the “cabin in the woods” genre of horror flicks.  From the very beginning it is more than apparent that this story is more than just a bunch of dumb good-looking kids staying in a cursed cabin.  Rather than let you figure this fact out as a twist, the movie opens with two men working in what looks like a secret government lab who are about to take part in some sort of international competition to kill young people using various monsters.  It starts off almost making you feel like you are watching an darker, more adult version of The Hunger Games.  Lucky for us, these are no normal young people and the game becomes very complicated. 

    If your first thought upon seeing the trailer for this pic is that it looks too scary – never fear.  Just like the M. Night Shyamalan film The Village, this movie might look like a scream-fest from the outside, but what you get on the inside is a very clever and extremely funny pseudo-scarer.  It’s just frightening enough to keep the horror fans happy, but this one surely won’t leave you waking up in the night in a cold sweat.  Instead, its an extremely entertaining thriller that gives you exactly what you would expect from these talented filmmakers. 

    The fact that the film was co-written and directed by one of television’s Lost writers might tell you that you’ll be guessing quite a bit and getting it wrong.  That’s not to say you probably won’t figure it out early enough.  They don’t try to slide something ridiculous by you in order to surprise you. 

    The acting here helps quite a bit.  The very popular Chris Hemsworth (Thor) is a welcome treat to head up the young cast.  What makes the film fun though is Oscar nominee Richard Jenkins and The West Wing’s Bradley Whitford as the two men in ties running the show from elsewhere.  The script, which puts these two in at the most unusual of moments to not only provide comedy relief but also provide a look at the bigger picture, is a sheer pleasure to watch unfold. 

    I think it’s pretty clear to see that this film is one with a gimmick, and that some people will find it silly.  I myself thought the ending was a little whacky.  But as a whole, I found the 95 minute experience to be well worth the ride.  B+

New in Home Entertainment – April 10, 2012

New in Home Entertainment

April 10, 2012

Into the Abyss
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material and some disturbing images
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Many of you will remember the horrific events that took place in Conroe in 2001 when Michael Perry killed three helpless victims all for the sake of stealing a car.  In 2010 he was executed in Huntsville, but before justice was served, he was interviewed by famed German filmmaker Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man) in an attempt to show the uselessness of the death penalty.  While I found the story intensely interesting and extremely sad for the families destroyed by the crime, I failed to see a reason against putting such a monster to death.  As one of the victim’s family members said “some people don’t deserve to live” and Perry truly falls into that category.  So as an argument against the death penalty, the movie does is not convincing.  As a reminder to lock your doors, don’t trust strangers and protect yourself and your family at all cost – the movie succeeds admirably.  B+

Being Elmo
Rated PG for some mild language including a brief drug reference
Available on DVD

It’s funny where we find inspiration.  For Kevin Clash, it was the puppet shows of his youth including Sesame Street and The Muppet Show.  From the time he was a small child he strove to be a world-class puppeteer and decades later he eventually created Elmo and later went on to become the Executive Producer of Sesame Street.  This wonderful indie doc follows the journey of a most amazing man who truly embodies the advice “do what you love.”  The movie itself is very well-made and would be a pleasure to watch for any kid or adult.  In fact, this should be required viewing for grade-school kids nationwide.  A

The Darkest Hour
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence and some language
Available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D

When I first saw the trailer for this alien invasion pic I was kind of excited.  After all, I love Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild), and invisible electric aliens in Moscow sounded exciting.  But the reviews were horrible upon its Christmas release and it made next to nothing at the U.S. box office.  Well, sad to say, the bad reviews are well warranted.  What could have been an interesting script turns out to be a real stinker filled with unimaginative dialog and bad acting to match.  To make matters worse, the special effects are practically non-existent and what little there is looks cheap.  Luckily the film is less than 90 minutes so the pain is only momentary.  C-

New in Home Entertainment – April 3, 2012

New in Home Entertainment

April 3, 2012

War Horse
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of war violence
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

In November my wife and I took a trip to London where we were fortunate enough to score some great seats to the hit West End play War Horse.  It was an incredible experience that left us both with the same thought: there is no way Steven Spielberg could screw this up.  We were wrong.  Spielberg’s movie does a lot of things right.  The cast is good enough, the music by John Williams is terrific and some of the shots are very memorable.  What turned out to be disappointing was the story.  Rather than sticking to the perfect storytelling of the play, Spielberg and screenwriter Richard Curtis (Love Actually) chose to twist things around, rework the plot and completely change the tone of the stage production.  The play is essentially about a boy during WWI whose father sells his horse to the military and thus goes on a journey through war-ravaged Europe to find his equine best friend.  In the play, the journey of both the horse and the boy were of equal importance.  In the movie, the boy’s journey is almost inconsequential by comparison.  In addition, they changed the major characters in significant enough of a way to almost lose their importance.  If you haven’t seen the play, you obviously won’t notice this.   But even though the film landed an Oscar nod for best picture, the overall reaction to the film has been mostly of indifference.  And while I have no way of proving this, I firmly believe that had they just left the basic story alone, the movie would have been a smashing success and an actual contender at the Oscars.  I have to admit that the special features in the four-disc blu-ray set are numerous and impressive.  I am still a massive Spielberg fan and love watching him commit to his craft.  He is more present on this blu-ray set than any of his other releases, which takes the overall movie up a notch or two.  C+

We Bought a Zoo
Rated PG for language and some thematic elements
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Based on a true story, a widower (Matt Damon) needing to get away from it all takes his two children away from their city home and moves into a house located on an actual zoo.  Using all of his savings, he helps his family cope with the loss of their matriarch by bringing the zoo back to life in the hopes of opening it to the public.  Just as you’d expect from a Cameron Crowe film, the storytelling is solid and the dialog is wonderfully written.  After all, this is the man that brought us “Show me the money” and “You had me at hello.”  The guy knows how to write and direct and the aside from some extremely cheesy moments spent with an out of place over-the-top zoo inspector, the film works as both a smart comedy and touching family film.  It’s hard to imagine anyone not liking the movie and I can even picture it being quite inspirational to some.  B+

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked

Rated G
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

There is something about those squeaky-voiced rodents that makes kids happy while simultaneously making their parents sick.  In this newest inevitable sequel, the Chipmunks and Chipettes accidentally go overboard from a cruise ship only to end up marooned on a seemingly deserted island.  Call me a snob, but I consider this to be the lowest form of entertainment.  There is not a funny gag in the entire film and it actually hurts seeing Jason Lee and David Cross reappearing for the third film (although if I were offered that kind of money, I’d probably do it also knowing full well that I’d hate myself later for it).  Unfortunately, since the pic brought in over a third of a million dollars worldwide, I’m sure the studio will try to get these rats to squeak again.  F