New in Home Entertainment – October 29, 2013

New in Home Entertainment

October 29, 2013

Monsters University
Rated G
Available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D

Rather than go the sequel route which has been the norm for animated features, Pixar chose to make a prequel for their hit film Monsters, Inc.  In this new adventure Mike and Sully (voiced once again by Billy Crystal and John Goodman) meet in college where they are rivals who must become friends in order to succeed.  I was very hesitant going in since Monsters, Inc is my absolutely favorite Pixar movie and the thought of the prequel was underwhelming.  But my attention was grabbed quickly and I ended up loving it.  The writing is back to the Pixar quality we’ve been missing over the last couple of years and in spite of its G rating, the pic is easily as fun for adults as it is for children and doesn’t have to resort to going over kids’ heads with questionable jokes to do it.  A-

The Way Way Back
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, language, some sexual content and brief drug material
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

After scoring an Oscar nomination for writing The Descendants, I was excited to see what actor/writer/director Nat Faxon could do with his own movie.  Set in a sort of retro yet modern time, a young teenager (Liam James) and his mother (Toni Collette) travel to a summer getaway with his mom’s new boyfriend (Steve Carell).  While temporarily living in the beach community he learns about life and love and pain while working at a water park with its crazy owner played by Sam Rockwell.  There are workable moments throughout but the film suffers from trying to be uber-clever and fails by not delivering.  Too much of the film is completely contrived and just plain nonsensical and these moments completely distract you from becoming emotionally involved.  C

Rated PG-13 for violence, sci-fi/fantasy action, some sensuality, and language including sex references
Available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D

When a young police officer played by Ryan Reynolds is killed in action, he is sent to the Rest In Peace Department which is ultimately responsible for getting rid of dead spirits that disturb the planet.  Joining a wild west lawman played by Jeff Bridges, the two uncover an unholy terror plot that they must foil to save Heaven and Earth.  If you think this movie looks like a Men in Black knockoff you’d be correct.  For Universal to put so much money into such a B movie seems like an insane investment.  Of course the film bombed badly simply because it wasn’t very good.  It’s not a total stinker, but its far from a quality sci-fi adventure.  Predictable and tasteless from start to finish, the film unfortunately qualifies as a must-avoid.  D+

New in Home Entertainment – October 22, 2013

New in Home Entertainment

October 22, 2013

The Conjuring
Rated R for sequences of disturbing violence and terror
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

One of the scariest things about The Conjuring is that it is supposedly based on a true story.  Apparently, real life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) came across a house in 1971 in Rhode Island that would later be described by them to be the worst case of demon possession they had ever seen.  If you believe in this sort of thing, and I certainly do, then you will be exponentially more horrified by the goings on in the film.  What separates it from the other run of the mill demon possession films?  It’s authenticity.  The film feels very organic and in turn manages to really deliver the goosebumps.  This is already being hailed as one of the scariest movies of the last decade and many will feel that its one of the most entertaining as well.  A-

Shrek the Musical
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

While Disney has had a lot of luck on Broadway with The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Tarzan I’m sure soon with Aladdin, Dreamworks struck out with its big stage version of Shrek starring Brian D’Arcy James and Sutton Foster in the roles of Shrek and Fiona.  But just because it didn’t survive on the great white way doesn’t mean its any less of a quality production.  Having seen the show in New York, I have been a huge fan for years.  The music is clever and extremely fun and the performances are award-worthy.  I think Dreamworks was so shocked that it didn’t do well that they decided to try to breathe new air into it by releasing it for home viewing.  I hope this does the trick as I would love to keep enjoying this one on stage for years to come.  A

Vikings: Season One
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

While we didn’t see a ton of Emmy’s being thrown the way of the History Channel this year, they are certainly on the road to greatness with this years original programming including The Bible and now Vikings (which just happened to score 3 noms).  This original series follows the fearsome but fair viking Ragnar Lothbrok as he rises to greatness within his tribe and attempts to conquer Europe.  Good drama, solid writing and acting and excellent production values make this a series worth watching.  While its not on par with Game of Thrones maybe, its definitely heading in the right direction and is sure to gather fans as it rolls along.  B+

Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips
Starring Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi
Directed by Paul Greengrass (United 93)
Rated PG-13 for sustained intense sequences of menace, some violence with bloody images, and for substance use

    Based on the true story of the hijacking of the Maresk Alabama off the coast of Somalia, Tom Hanks is Captain Richard Phillips whose valiant efforts to save the ship and his crew put his own life in extreme danger under the guns of Somali pirates. 

    From the moment I first saw this trailer I had an idea that this would be a great film.  After all, combining Tom Hanks, director Paul Greengrass and a story of somali hijacking has gold written all over it.  And it sure lives up to its promise.  From start to finish, this is a great movie.  It’s extremely well-written and directed and the performances by not only Hanks but a largely unknown supporting cast are inspired. 

    While so many things impressed me about the film, what surprised me was how ultimately patriotic the film is.  The message is clear – you mess with one American you mess with all.  Ted Cruz isn’t in the background insisting that Phillips should only be rescued if he is a republican.  In fact there is not talk of politics or ideology.  He is an American and he is off limits.  Our military response is incredibly professional and intimidating and brings a sense of pride for our men and women in uniform and should bring a sense of fear to those wishing to do harm. 

    Since we are about to enter awards season I would like to make a prediction though – Captain Phillips could easily get shut out at the Oscars.  Don’t get me wrong – it will receive a huge amount of nominations, but with the serious movie muscle being released this fall, including last week’s awe-inspiring Gravity, Captain Phillips will have a challenging time taking home a trophy. 

    That being said, this is still a highly relevant film that needs to be seen.  Aside from the South Park episode where Cartman goes to Somalia to become a pirate, I’ve seen very little about piracy in Africa and I now feel there is a face to the crisis.  Greengrass and screenwriter Billy Ray (The Hunger Games) attempt to not only show the actions but explore the root causes of piracy as well.  It’s an eye-opening experience with a jaw-dropping conclusion.  A-

New in Home Entertainment – October 15, 2013

New in Home Entertainment

October 15, 2013

Pacific Rim
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief language
Available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D

Just the thought of Guillermo del Toro directing a film about giant robots fighting off humongous alien monsters determined to destroy the planet gets me excited.  Perhaps the movie needed bigger stars, but regardless it really delivers exactly what is promised – a ton of fun and giddy mayhem with a good story and excellent special effects.  While worldwide audiences ate it up with over $400 million in receipts, the U.S. did not as the box office came in at just over a hundred.  But don’t let that fool you – this is a terrific genre film worth your attention.  A-

The Croods
Rated PG for some scary action
Available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D

While many of the animated pics have been failures of late (i.e. Planes and Turbo), Dreamworks Animation really came through this year with this original adventure about a caveman family forced to leave the sanctuary of their rock home after a massive earthquake and survive in a colorful new world.  With great storytelling, beautiful animation and in impressive voice cast including Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds and Catherine Keener, The Croods turns out to be a quality motion picture good for both kids and adults.  A-

New in Home Entertainment – October 8, 2013

New in Home Entertainment

October 8, 2013

After Earth
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and some disturbing images
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Taking place 1000 years after a forced human escape from Earth, Will Smith and son Jaden (playing father and son in the movie also) end up on a hostile Earth that has evolved to a tremendous degree after the humans have left.  While Jaden’s acting isn’t the best and the film might not be completely scientifically sound, the movie is still a very well-made sci-fi adventure that comes in at a tidy 100 fast-paced minutes.  While director M. Night Shyamalan has certainly deserved some of the bad reviews he has garnered over the last few years, especially for The Happening and The Last Airbender, After Earth is a much better film than most critics are giving it credit for.  B

The Hangover Part III
Rated R for pervasive language including sexual references, some violence and drug content, and brief graphic nudity
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

When Doug is kidnapped by gangsters while taking Alan to rehab, Phil, Alan and Stu (Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms) must recruit Mr Chow (Ken Jeong) to help get him back.  While they wisely chose not to use their “wake up with a hangover and no memory of the night before” plot vehicle that they so poorly utilized in part 2, this time around is far too serious and contains little humor.  And when they were trying to be funny, they weren’t successful.   Ultimately the movie ended up being a huge stinking disappointment.  D

Europa Report
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and peril
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

If you saw the trailer for this latest low-budget sci-fi film you’d think it was some kind of horror film, but it turns out to be so different and so much better because of it.  This realistic, almost documentary-style space exploration film follows an international group of astronauts as they attempt to travel to Jupiter’s moon Europa in the search for a life-sustaining planet.  While it’s no Gravity, it is an engrossing and extremely interesting flick with an excellent cast of  “they look really familiar” actors and terrific production values.  B

New in Home Entertainment – October 1, 2013

New in Home Entertainment

October 1, 2013

This is the End
Rated R for crude and sexual content throughout, brief graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson all play themselves in this end of the world comedy that takes place after the rapture has left them all behind.  I actually got some ugly emails from angry readers who felt I didn’t give a strong enough warning so let me start off by saying this is incredibly offensive material.  If you think you might be offended, you will be.  DO NOT RENT.  Everyone else – enjoy.  Easily the funniest movie of the year so far, This is the End is as hilarious as it is introspective.  While they are playing a version of themselves they are comfortable with us seeing, you can tell there is a lot of truth behind the actions (aside from Michael Cera possibly).  That being said, this is a rude and extremely crude comedy that will make you laugh right through your discomfort.  A-

The Little Mermaid
Rated G
Available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D

In 1989 Disney began an animation renaissance with its now classic The Little Mermaid based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale.  Beautifully written and stunningly drawn with some of the best music to ever come out of the mouse house, Mermaid is easily one of the greatest animated films of all time.  This new digitally restored edition is packed full of extras and even has a 3D version for those of you with the right sets.  A+

Mamas Family: The Complete Collection

Available on DVD

80’s sitcom Mama’s Family is getting the Time Life touch here with this new box set including 24 DVDs with every episode of its six seasons and tons of new extras.  What made Mama stand out was the terrific performances by Vicki Lawrence as the grandma who is forced to take in her son and grandkids when they are evicted from their home.  Serving as a link between All in the Family and Roseanne, Mama’s Family performed an important function in keeping American white trash family comedy alive and well during the Reagan years.  For now it is only available on  B+