New in Home Entertainment – August 27, 2013

New in Home Entertainment

August 27, 2013

Pain & Gain
Rated R for bloody violence, crude sexual content, nudity, language throughout and drug use
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

So what was my biggest surprise this summer in theaters?  This little comedy by tentpole extraordinaire Michael Bay about the dumbest bodybuilders you’ve ever witnessed (Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson) who attempt to kidnap a local businessman and steal his life.  Oh yeah – and it’s based on a true story.  It’s the most unbelievable true story you can possibly imagine.  I went in sure I was going to hate it and ended up having a blast.  And it was still fun the second time watching it at home.  A-

Rated PG-13 for a disturbing violent sequence
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Based on the classic novel by Thor Heyerdahl, this Academy Award nominated film (Best Foreign Language Film – Norway), follows Thor and a group of adventurers who attempt to prove that Peruvians could have been the first inhabitants of Tahiti by taking a balsa wood raft and floating there using only the winds and currents to guide them.  Masterfully directed and produced, the film is a fascinating and beautiful two hour adventure.  And if you hate subtitles, the filmmakers actually made an English language version at the same time they made the Norwegian, so you won’t have the distraction of dubbing.  A

Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material including a disturbing act, and for brief language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
French with English Subtitles

From acclaimed director Michael Heneke comes this story about an elderly couple that undergoes an extreme hardship when the wife becomes terminally ill.  This heartbreaking drama won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.  Personally I found it to be lovely but rather dismal.  Like most of Heneke’s films, this one is challenging to watch but still beautiful in its own regard.  A-

The Great Gatsby
Rated PG-13 for some violent images, sexual content, smoking, partying and brief language
Available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D

Director Baz Luhrmann’s (Moulin Rouge) visionary new production starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the famed Gatsby is one of the few movies I would ever suggest the need for 3D.  Luhrmann’s style is far from subtle but it is unique and stunning at times.  The performances are rather good, but just like the famous book it’s based on, the film is pretty darn depressing after the partying is over.  Still, this is definitely the kind of film that could grow on you and it is certainly one you’ll want to show off your 3D TV with.  B

The Walking Dead: The Complete Third Season

Available on DVD and Blu-ray

I was certain that after creator Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption) left the project that this zombie serial would run into a wall, but it turns out the writing is still strong and and performances are even stronger.  And boy do I love the twists!  I’m not alone when I say that this is one of my favorite things to watch on TV and can’t wait to see what’s in store for season 4.  A

New in Home Entertainment – August 20, 2013

New in Home Entertainment

August 20, 2013

Rated PG for mild action, some scary images and brief rude language
Available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D

When a teenage girl is forced to live with her eclectic scientist father, she accidentally finds herself miniaturized and forced into a battle between good and evil in the natural world.  On first hearing about this new animated film I was very excited and had the highest hopes.  While the movie didn’t live up to my expectations, it did deliver an action-packed  adventure that felt geared almost more to adults than children.  I also fully expected a preachy environmental film and refreshingly, that was far from the case here.  Instead of a message, you simply get a story that is fun enough to keep you entertained for about a hundred minutes.  B-

Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Third Season
Rated TV-MA
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) is back in HBO’s hit series about Atlantic City during the prohibition era.  It’s hard to build on a season like number two with its shocking conclusion, but the third takes it up a notch, largely due to the introduction of the absolutely insane  and unpredictable Bobby Cannavale.  While Michael Shannon’s side story seems a little far-fetched, the rest of the show keeps you biting your fingernails for twelve thrilling episodes, just in time to set you up for season four starting on September 8th.  A-


Starring Ashton Kutcher, Josh Gad and Dermot Mulroney
Directed by Joshua Michael Stern (Swing Vote)
Rated PG-13 for some drug content and brief strong language

    Apple founder Steve Jobs is easily considered to be one of the most important people in modern history and telling his life’s story on film had to be a daunting challenge.  In this new biopic Ashton Kutcher takes on the iconic role telling the tale of the infamous Apple founder and what brought him to greatness.  

    I’m sure many will predict that Kutcher will be the reason for the film’s failure without even seeing it.  After all, he’s not exactly known as being one of the greatest actors in Hollywood.  Surprisingly, his performance here is good enough.  And that’s saying a lot.  He looks and talks the part just fine and doesn’t distract from the story.  Mind you, he’s not as good as the excellent Josh Gad who plays Jobs’ partner Steve Wozniak, but my level of respect for Kutcher has risen.  

    Where the film suffers greatly is in the story, or better yet, the parts of the story they decided to tell.  If you’re one of the millions who read the biography by Walter Isaacson, there are some obviously vital parts of his life that are simply brushed over here.  I agree that Steve’s college and Atari years, as well as his garage days building computers, was essential, but probably the most crucial part of his life was when he was fired from Apple and what he did next.  This part of the story is basically glossed over.          This is when he was responsible for the success of Pixar, the seeds of the modern Mac computer and the ideas that brought us what we think of when we hear the word Apple.  The humbling experience of getting kicked out of the company he created changed him in a way that sent repercussions throughout the world.  In this movie, the period is simply a title card telling us that years had passed.  Maybe the filmmakers thought that they didn’t have the time if they wanted to keep the movie to two hours, but without representing this period in his life, they really didn’t represent the part of his life that made him the man we know today.   

    Also, the film has a definite made for TV quality that seems a little out of place in a movie theater.  It suffers from having a fairly inexperienced director and a first-time screenwriter.  Under more experienced hands and with a better script, the movie would have been more impressive.  

    I still think the film has some merit and is slightly memorable, but I don’t think it’s the proper representation of the legendary figure.  C+

New in Home Entertainment – August 13, 2013

New in Home Entertainment

August 13, 2013

Rated PG-13 for violent content, brief strong language and smoking (historical)
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

During the U.S. occupation of Japan directly after their surrender during WWII, a young general (Matthew Fox) is assigned by General MacArthur (Tommy Lee Jones) to investigate war crimes and the possible involvement of the Japanese Emperor in the decision to attack Pearl Harbor.  The project feels like they really thought this was going to be a great, awards-worthy motion picture, but unfortunately everything plays flat and frankly a little boring.  Maybe they all lost their passion once they got on set or possibly in the editing room, or maybe they were just trying to be too cautiously sensitive with the material, but as a whole, the movie doesn’t really work all too well.  C+

To the Wonder
Rated R for some sexuality/nudity
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life was one of my favorite films in recent memory, so I was excited to see how he would follow it up with his latest project about love and loss that takes place in my home state of Oklahoma.  In the picture, Ben Affleck falls for and brings back to Oklahoma a young European girl, played by Olga Kurylenko, but upon her exit he falls for a girl from town played by Rachel McAdams.  All the while a priest struggling with his faith, played by Javier Bardem, tries to help his community.  Unfortunately, Malick’s writing and directing style just doesn’t work well with this kind of movie.  For much of the film you get the sense that the characters only communicate through telepathy.  What should have been a beautiful and artistic film turns into an annoying and aggravating experience with lovely scenery.  Normally I would advise that this is a film for fans of the director only, but in this case I would advise against it since it could taint your image of him.  C

Girls: The Complete Second Season
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

This anti-Sex and the City from HBO continues in its second season as the four entitled and annoying young girls from New York flounder around trying to find themselves.  While I really can’t stand the characters, I also can’t take my eyes off them.  Their escapades and adventures are more entertaining than anything you might find on Duck Dynasty and the show will, probably for the first time, make you wish they’d put some clothes on.  And yet I can’t seem to stop watching.  Watching Girls is like sticking to a bad habit that you just put up with even though you could easily stop it at any time.  B

The Muppet Movie: The Nearly 35th Anniversary Edition
Rated G
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Kermit, Ms. Piggy and the gang’s first adventure is finally getting the blu-ray touch up from Disney.  One of the first films I ever saw in theaters, the movie holds up surprisingly well and serves as not just a fun trip down memory lane but can also capture the attention and the imagination of the kiddos as well.  A-

New in Home Entertainment – August 6, 2013

New in Home Entertainment

August 6, 2013   

Rated PG-13 for some violence, sexual references, language, thematic elements and smoking
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Two young boys wandering the rivers of Arkansas befriend a man named Mud (Matthew McConaughey) who is hiding out from the law as he awaits the love of his life (Reese Witherspoon) to come to him.  This is simply a fascinating and surprising adventure full of great acting and superb writing.  McConaughey is on a roll with so many great films in the last two years and this one could finally get him a much-deserved Oscar nomination.  The story, revolving around three generations suffering from the disillusionment of love, is heartbreaking if not the slightest bit sexist.  But it is their story and it is so well-told you hardly care.  I love when a quiet little film like this makes such a huge impact.  A

The Place Beyond the Pines
Rated R for language throughout, some violence, teen drug and alcohol use, and a sexual reference
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

This highly unusual film tells the story of a young man (Ryan Gosling) who is convinced to rob banks in order to provide for his child and the cop that gets in the way (Bradley Cooper).  Telling three very distinct stories, the movie is far more ambitious than you would imagine and leaves you wondering if you just saw something great or just pretentious.  Don’t get me wrong – the performances by all are strong and the screenplay is solid, and it is out of the box filmmaking but honestly, my mind is still figuring out the verdict.  B

West of Memphis
Rated R for disturbing violent content and some language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

In 1993, the bodies of three young boys were discovered in West Memphis, Arkansas, and subsequently, three teens were ramrodded through the court system and found guilty of the crime.  When technology was able to prove the innocence of the three men convicted, they were finally able to be released but not completely exonerated of their supposed crime.  This doc explores the complete failure of the American justice system, not only in regards to locking up and ruining the lives of the wrong people, but also not getting the proper justice the murdered children deserve.  The pic is completely sobering and extremely angering.  More than anything, it is just simply hard to believe that something like this is allowed to happen in America.  A-

Disney’s Robin Hood
Rated G
Available on Blu-ray

I’m very fond of this 1973 Disney classic about the adventures of Robin Hood as he and his Merry Men steal from the rich to give back to the poor.  While the very thought of this is bound to get a Republican all riled up, this movie not only will serve to entertain the kids but will teach them a valuable lesson as well about what can happen when greed is allowed to run unfettered by law.  This new HD transfer is gorgeous, making the film look truly better than ever.  And in no time at all you’ll be singing along to the wonderful Roger Miller soundtrack.  Also being released this week from the Disney vault are the mediocre Oliver and Company and The Sword in the Stone.  B+