New in Home Entertainment – August 26, 2014



New in Home Entertainment


August 26, 2014


The Normal Heart
Rated TV-MA
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
This HBO feature film, which has won and will continue to sweep its award categories for made for TV movie, tells the story of the beginning of the AIDS crisis in New York City through the eyes of the physician (Julia Roberts) and the journalist (Mark Ruffalo) who attempted to bring the disease to the nation’s attention. There’s no doubt that this is a powerful piece of filmmaking by some brave and talented artists. While the story has been told before and in many different ways, this story still comes across as original, sad and triumphant. That being said, the film is very sexually graphic and even I was rather uncomfortable during some of the scenes. So while I can appreciate the film for what it is, it’s also not exactly a favorite that I will want to reach for again. B+

Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, and language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Audiences apparently love to see Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore together on screen so much that Warner Brothers thought it a good idea to approve this deplorable script about a lonely father of three girls who finds himself on an African vacation with a lonely mother of two boys. It’s hard enough that there isn’t a genuine or organic moment in the entire film, but to add salt to the wound there isn’t a laugh to be found either. The filmmakers seem almost too desperate to make the reunion work, leaving the audience in pain as they watch. This is a special kind of bad movie that should be the crowned king at this year’s Golden Raspberries. F

Y Tu Mama También : The Criterion Edition
Rated R for strong sexual content involving teens, drug use and language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron’s breathtaking erotic drama about a middle-aged woman who goes on a road trip with two young men to find a mythical beach in Mexico was so good that he was next offered to direct the third chapter of the Harry Potter series, The Prisoner of Azkaban. While a little young for a Criterion release, it fits the mold perfectly as a revolutionary and game changing movie. This new edition features a restored 2K digital transfer as well as the host of new special features you would expect from Criterion. A

Welcome Back Kotter: The Complete Series
Available on DVD
Sometimes you get pretty arrogant when it comes to the television programs and movies you enjoy and remember enjoying from your childhood. Then you take a look at one of your old favorites, here that would be Welcome Back Kotter, and you quickly realize that yes, you once enjoyed bad television also. This high school comedy, which served as the vehicle to launch John Travolta’s career, isn’t as funny as I once remembered, but it did serve as a slap across the face of good old fashioned nostalgia and a touch of humility as well that will be remembered the next time I blast someone else’s television favorites. B-

New in Home Entertainment – August 19, 2014



New in Home Entertainment


August 19, 2014


The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence
Available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D
Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield) continues his new adventures here as he fends off Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan), Electro (Jamie Foxx) and The Rhino (Paul Giamatti) from destroying New York City. You would think that the filmmakers would have learned their lesson from watching Spider-man 3, but apparently they are comfortable with history repeating itself. As in that critically pounded pic, this second in the new franchise has thrown too much in the mix. Too many bad guys, too much tortured love, too much story. There is a great plot to be found here in Parker’s relationship with the Green Goblin’s alter ego Harry Osborn, but rather than let that mature, they dumb it down and drown us with too much other unnecessary material. And its not like they needed that other material to show off their technological prowess. This new franchise has decent special effects, but is definitely not ground breaking by any means. That being said, sacrificing story for action has not hurt this Spidey’s box office as it has surely made a killing and will no doubt continue to do so in peoples’ homes. C

Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Fourth Season
Rated TV-MA
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
While HBO’s hit show about prohibition in Atlantic City isn’t getting quite the critical reception it once did, it is still churning out a binge-worthy serial with superb drama and fantastic performances. Joining the cast this year is Jeffrey Wright as Doctor Valentin Narcisse, a proclaimed man of God who also runs a drug empire. While not as scary a villain as the third season’s Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale), Narcisse provides an intriguing new dimension that counterbalances the weaker plot lines involving the characters played by Michael Shannon, Kelly McDonald and Gretchen Mol. With the upcoming season five to be the last, Empire’s sendoff is looking to be quite a bit better than True Blood’s desperately awful finale. B+

Muppets Most Wanted
Rated PG for some mild action
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
In this latest addition to the Muppet franchise, a notorious gangster who looks similar to Kermit the Frog takes Kermits place, sending Kermit to a Siberian prison upon the mixup. The film tries so incredibly hard to be clever that it just can’t accomplish the feat. Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell and Tina Fey are so into making a “kids” movie that they forget to entertain the adults. Aside from a couple of decent songs, the movie fizzles as it bores you into not caring about the Muppets again. This is something that has happened before, and I’m sure someone brilliant like Jason Segel will come to rescue them again. C

God’s Not Dead
Rated PG for thematic material, brief violence and an accident scene
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
As far as Christian films go, this drama that centers around an atheist professor who publicly battles one of his Christian students was a huge box office hit for the genre. While the whole setup is unbelievable and forcibly dramatic (what professor could ever keep his job if he made his students sign a piece of paper that reads God is dead?), the central message is presented in a convincing fashion. Where the film ultimately lets down though is in its desire to be overly complicated, almost mimicking the film Crash, and in its shameful over-publicizing of Duck Dynasty and The Newsboys. At times it feels like you are watching commercials for the real-life characters rather than a narrative that is supposed to move you. Had the filmmakers tightened the story and left out the fluff, maybe they could have had a film that would have been impactful for everyone rather than just Christians who would have liked it no matter what. B-

A Brony Tale
Not Rated
Available on DVD
Most consider the show My Little Pony to be a cartoon for little girls. This documentary follows a new subset of weird called Bronies, grown men, mostly straight, who openly love the show, primarily told from the point of view of one of the voice actresses who cautiously visits a Brony convention in New York City. While I find the subject matter extremely over-the-top, the documentary does give a fascinating and fairly framed look at a sub-culture that I really have no desire to understand further. B-

New in Home Entertainment – August 12, 2014



New in Home Entertainment

August 12, 2014


Rated R for language throughout
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
This 84 minute pseudo-thriller follows thespian Tom Hardy (Warrior) as he attempts to handle a number of very delicate situations over the phone while driving. Yes that’s it – one man driving and talking on his speaker phone. Had I known this going in I would have probably not started watching the movie. And boy would I have missed out on a really interesting film. It takes some time to get the story into high gear, but this terrific script, performed by an amazing actor, is masterfully pulled off. B+

Rated G
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Disneynature’s 2014 Earth Day documentary follows a mother and her two cubs as they try to survive the harsh wilderness of the Alaskan peninsula. This very tight 78 minute feature is so packed full of “how did they get that shot” moments that you just get used to them. And I can’t think of a more perfect voice for the narration than the goofy John C. Reilly. Like all of these Earth Day narratives, some of the story seems to be a far stretch from what is actually going on, but when you are trying to tell a tale with nature as your backdrop, sometimes you have to have a little artistic license. B+

Rated NR
Available on DVD
This Canadian documentary attempts to tell the story of boredom, a state of mind that we all suffer from but apparently know little about. Sound boring? Filmmaker Albert Nerenberg tells it using a huge symphonic score with more b-roll footage (mostly irrelevant) than any documentary should need, making boredom seem, well, quite exciting and entertaining. I’m not sure how much I actually took away from the movie, but at least I wasn’t bored watching it. B

Guardians of the Galaxy



Guardians of the Galaxy
Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana and Lee Pace
Directed by James Gunn (Super)
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language

     Digging deep into the Marvel universe for some of its more obscure titles, Disney and Marvel pull out this comic which teams up 5 very unlikely heroes, including a talking raccoon and a walking/talking tree, who task themselves to save the galaxy from the likes of an evil alien who wants to rule it.

     From the very first shot, this movie wins you over . Without going into too much backstory or exposition, the film tells you all you need to know to get you going. You might not know the leading character, played here brilliantly by Chris Pratt, but you sure do empathize with him. And that’s what wins you over regarding the entire team. While each is deeply flawed, they also have had a very, very tough life and a good heart, making them heroes you can truly cheer for.

     Of course it helps that the characters are superbly written here by director James Gunn and Nicole Perlman. And it also helps to have the perfect cast, which they most definitely do. Pratt, with his hot looks and witty sense of humor is an excellent counterpart to the sexy yet deadly Saldana, who trades in her Avatar blue for a new shade of green. And while no one in the past has ever accused WWE wrestler David Bautista of being a real actor, here he proves his worth as the muscle bound alien who seeks revenge against the man who killed his wife and daughter. Rounding out the team are the voices of Bradley Cooper as Rocket Racoon and Vin Diesel as the tree Groot, both of whom steal the show as they recreate the Han Solo/Chewy vibe for a new generation.

     While the characters aren’t new and original, they certainly feel that way here on the big screen. You get the sense that you are experiencing something truly creative and breathtaking as you watch the heroes fight the villains in ways you’ve seen before but seem fresh here.

     What ultimately makes this movie succeed, though, isn’t the originality or the special effects (although they don’t hurt), but rather its smart sense of humor. Experiencing this movie is like going on a date with a super model only to find out she or he is a member of Mensa and a stellar stand up comedian to boot. What sounds too good to be true comes to life here before your very eyes. A

New in Home Entertainment – August 5, 2014

Need for Speed


New in Home Entertainment


August 5, 2014


Need for Speed
Rated PG-13 for sequences of reckless street racing, disturbing crash sequences, nudity and crude language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Based on the highly successful video game, Need for Speed follows Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul as he attempts to join a highly secretive street race worth millions of dollars to the winner. While I admire the fact that the project has a great deal of integrity and that everyone involved took the movie seriously, its hard to get past the fact that it still feels like dumb, mindless entertainment. There’s no doubt that Paul is a talented actor, but he needs better projects than this if he wants to evolve into the movie world. C

Community: The Complete Fifth Season
Available on DVD
I am so surprised that this NBC sitcom has survived this long. While the first season was a tough one to get through, and number four was even worse, the show has picked up steam with season five, probably from show runner Dan Harmon’s return, and offers up a lot more in the laughter department than I expected. That being said, the show feels like something you might watch in syndication if there’s nothing else on, but its hardly something you dive into for a good binge watch. C+

Herzog: The Collection
Available on Blu-ray
German director Werner Herzog is one of the most prolific and eccentric filmmakers of the last half century. Racking up 67 directing credits according to IMDB, the man has been a busy one and this new set includes a wide swath in order judge his work by. Including 16 of his acclaimed features and documentaries from the 70s and 80s, many for the first time on Blu-ray, the set is an exhaustive look at his work. And by exhaustive, I mean that if you go through even half of them in a short period of time you will be completely exhausted. While his films are interesting for sure, they are also sometimes disturbing and his all too familiar voice is something that should only be experienced in small doses. Still, this is a great tribute to a very talented and risky filmmaker that loves to show us a view of the world that is hardly ever seen elsewhere in motion pictures. B+