New in Home Entertainment – January 28, 2014

New in Home Entertainment

January 28, 2014

Fruitvale Station
Rated R for some violence, language throughout and some drug use
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Winner of the 2013 Sundance Grand Jury and Audience Award is this superb indie that is noticeably absent from the recent Academy nods.  Stories of injustice in America are sometimes unbelievable, but when they show up on people’s cell phone videos, the proof is more than evident.  In this case, a young man trying to sort his life out, masterfully played by Michael B. Jordan, is shot in the back by a police officer while he is lying on his stomach with his hands tied behind his back at an Oakland train station.  The movie tells the story leading up to the fateful night and serves as a punch to the gut and a spotlight on a flawed legal system.  Sobering to say the least, it is evidence that films can have a huge social impact on their audience.  A

Rated R for sexual content, nudity, language, some disturbing images and brief drug use
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

It is more than apparent that Americans aren’t overly into Formula One, but most of us are into great movies.  So it is that much more staggering that Ron Howard’s latest film, telling the true story of Formula One legends James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Nicki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) as they use their hatred for the other to push each other to success, was a complete dud at the box office, only bringing in about half of what it cost to make.  It’s a terrific story and an absolutely amazing movie, currently ranked at about #130 on the IMDB top 250 films of all time.  Hemsworth proves here that he’s more than just a Norse god and Daniel Bruhl turns in possibly the most underrated performance of 2013.  My advice, pick it up, pour yourself a glass of wine or beer, turn the volume way up and then sit back and enjoy what you should have checked out a few months ago in theaters.  A

Blue Caprice
Rated R for disturbing violent content, language and brief drug use
Available on DVD

In 2002 the Beltway snipers tormented America as they randomly killed people from the back of their Caprice for weeks until they were arrested by authorities.  This film, starring Isaiah Washington as the father figure who “adopts” a young Jamaican teenager only to lead him on a murder spree across the country, isn’t a story about the murders themselves but rather about a monster creating another monster.  It is a terrifying look at true evil, as well as a social commentary focusing on mental health and the need for better role models for our youth.  Was the 16 year-old kid evil, or did this man who he looked up to make him that way?  Either way, the movie is extremely dark, but very well-made with an impressive script and surprising performances.  B+

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Rated PG for mild rude humor
Available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D

Set after the events of the first film, number two has the heroes forced from their homes while a massive cleanup ensues, only to go back and discover the food has taken over and evolved into creatures.  While not as bad as the first film, this newest installment confuses creativity with weirdness.  For every brief instance of inspiration, there are ten head scratchers and eye rolls.  It passed the kid test well enough as my youngin’ was enthralled, but overall the film is disappointing if you expect a story an adult can find entertaining.  C-

New in Home Entertainment – January 21, 2014

New in Home Entertainment

January 21, 2014

Captain Phillips

Rated PG-13 for sustained sequences of menace, some violence with bloody images, and for substance abuse
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Captain Phillips follows the real-life story of Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) and the crew of the MV Maersk Alabama as they are hijacked by Somali pirates.  Simply put, the film is phenomenal.  From start to finish it is a riveting and exciting drama that will keep your pulse racing and your mind stirring.  I will go as far as to say it is the best film of the year that will most likely not win any major awards.  Tom Hanks’s performance is on par with his best work and newcomer Barkhad Abdi, in an Oscar nominated performance, deserves high praise for creating an air of empathy around a really bad villain.   A

Blue Jasmine
Rated R for mature thematic material, language and sexual content
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Woody Allen’s latest comedy places Cate Blanchett as a New York socialite who is separated from her riches and forced to live with her sister, played by Sally Hawkins, when her husband (Alec Baldwin) is arrested for white collar crimes.  Almost certain to win her an Oscar for best actress this year, Blanchett is out-of-this-world good as she plays a woman who you can’t stand to watch but can’t take your eyes of.  The writing from Allen is some of his finest and most relevant.  The unsung hero is the surprising supporting cast including Baldwin, Hawkins, Andrew Dice Clay, Peter Sarsgaard and Louis C.K. who all turn in fine performances elevating the film quality tremendously.  A

Machete Kills
Rated R for strong bloody violence throughout, language and some sexual content
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Machete (Danny Trejo), the character based on the fake movie trailer turned into a movie by Robert Rodriguez, is back and working for the U.S. President (Charlie Sheen) to stop a super villain (Mel Gibson) from taking over the world.  Once again, this is a B-movie with an A-level cast.  Does that make it good?  Not exactly, but it does make it interesting.  It never takes itself seriously or pretends to be something it is not.  Instead, it relishes in its silliness and allows the audience to come in have a good time with it.  So while the rating I’m giving it isn’t great, and I would probably get made fun of if I praised it, I will gladly admit that for the right audience, this will be another Rodriguez masterpiece.  C+

New in Home Entertainment – January 14, 2014

New in Home Entertainment

January 14, 2013

Rated R for bloody violence, disturbing images, language and some sexual content
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

I saw a t-shirt the other day that said “An Engineer’s Motto: If it’s not broken, take it apart and fix it.”  That definitely applies here with Boys Don’t Cry director Kimberly Peirce’s modernization of Stephen King’s classic book about a haunted young telekinetic girl who is bullied over the edge and driven to unleash her powers upon the world.  Chloe Grave Moretz plays the titular character in a completely over-the-top but still effective manner while Julianne Moore plays her religious nut job mother perfectly.  While not especially scary and not nearly as good as the 1976 Brian De Palma original, this Carrie gives a nice cyber-bully spin to the story with a pretty elaborate set piece.  And even though the trailers gave way too much away about the big prom scene, whether you’ve seen it or not, it should still give its audience a fun time at the big dance.  B

Lee Daniels’ The Butler
Rated PG-13 for some violence and disturbing images, language, sexual material, thematic elements and smoking
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

While its not lighting up the awards circuit this year, this audience favorite about a man who works as a butler in the White House throughout many of the countries pivotal moments of the twentieth century is certainly a strong contender for best feel good movie of the year.  Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey lead a terrific cast whose performances aren’t exactly memorable but solid enough to make the film enjoyable and relevant.  The writing could have been stronger as the film comes off a bit cheesy at times, but the film will leave you entertained and touched for sure.  B+

Rated R for strong violence, language and some sexual content/nudity
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Riddick is left stranded on a sun-scorched planet finding himself caught between deadly alien monsters trying to eat him and a group of bounty hunters determined to bring him in.  While I’ve seen 2000’s Pitch Black and 2004’s The Chronicles of Riddick, I don’t remember any major plot details.  The movies have never struck me as memorable in the least.  That being said, I feel I needed some back story beyond what was given in order to understand what was going on, but oh well.  The story alone is fine as Vin Diesel buries himself well in the character and owns his screen time.  I even liked the monsters but I’m pretty sure the planet would have had more than three species of animal life on it.  I especially liked the dog that Riddick befriends, although they break an important movie rule when it comes to his four-legged buddy and the film slips from there into its mindless ending.  C+

You’re Next
Rated R for strong bloody violence, language and some sexuality/nudity
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Your’re Next follows a family whose house is invaded by a group of masked villains intent on killing them off one by one.  Normally a film like this would have went straight to DVD but thanks to a huge underground following, largely due to winning some major prizes at Austin Fantastic Fest in 2011, the film got a nice theatrical release and a few extra dollars.  While it has its scary moments, there’s enough humor in it to make you laugh out loud throughout.  It is definitely one of the better B movies I’ve seen recently and has cult classic potential.  C+

New in Home Entertainment

New in Home Entertainment

January 7, 2014

We Are What We Are
Rated R for disturbing violence, bloody images, some sexuality, nudity and language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

This remake of a little-known Mexican fright flick follows a reclusive family from the country as they try to keep up the family tradition
of cannibalism.  The description sounds like a B-movie, but the look and feel screams art house horror.  The movie is beautifully filmed, well written and directed and the cast comes off as beyond competent, regardless of its lack of big stars.  It even has a terrific score.  While I didn’t find it terrifically scary, I did find it engrossing and the twisted and unforgettable ending truly caught me by surprise.   Not for the weak of stomach but could easily become a cult classic and Halloween sleepover favorite.  B+

Throne of Blood: Criterion Collection
Available on Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack
Japanese with English Subtitles

Akira Kurosawa’s 1957 epic vision of Shakespeare’s Macbeth places the legendary Toshiro Mifune as a warrior in feudal Japan who rises to power through corruption and murder only to be forced to face the consequences.  The newly restored 2K digital transfer looks and sounds amazing, leaving a wonderful representation of the classic.  What I love most about these Criterion editions though is the extreme collection of special features.  If you’ve ever wondered what makes a Kurosawa film like this so special, you must check out the commentary by Japanese film expert Michael Jeck as he discusses how the film was made and the significance of seemingly minor details that come off as fascinating for the interested viewer.  A-