New in Home Entertainment – February 24, 2015


New in Home Entertainment

February 24, 2015

Rated R for strong language including some sexual references
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
So now many of you are saying “did that Farmers Insurance guy just win an Oscar?” The answer is he didn’t just win it – he owned it. His win was one of the most dominant in an actor category that I have ever seen. And deservedly so. Whiplash tells the story of a young and talented drummer (Miles Teller) who is pushed to the point of insanity by his jazz instructor (played by now Oscar winner J.K. Simmons). It is a beautifully frustrating experience that provided not only my favorite performance of the year, but my favorite movie as well. It is a brilliant film that I can almost guarantee you’ll love – if you can make it to the end. A+

Big Hero 6
Rated PG for action and peril, some rude humor, and thematic elements
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
One of my biggest surprises on Oscar night was watching Disney win its second animated feature Academy Award for Big Hero 6. I’m sure they are still partying in Burbank. Based on a little-known Marvel comic and set in the futuristic California city of San Fransokyo, Big Hero 6 tells the tale of a young genius named Hiro who puts together a team of engineering nerds to save the world from a madman who stole his robot technology to use for sinister purposes. Very funny and action packed, it is an absolute blast to watch, whether you’re a kid or an adult. And in the robot Baymax, Disney has officially created one of the most lovable characters in its universe. A
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Rated PG for thematic elements, some violent action and partial nudity
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
A surprise nominee in this year’s Feature Animated Oscar category is this beautiful hand-drawn story from Studio Ghibli. This tale of a young girl born from a bamboo stock and adopted by local villagers is like a lovely dream. It’s incredibly strange but unbelievably graceful in its telling. Although animated, I think adults are the main audience for this one. While the artistry is quite an achievement, this kind of animation, unfortunately, is lost on most children. But then some of the scenes will have you glad they aren’t watching when they come along. A-
Horrible Bosses 2
Rated R for strong crude sexual content and language throughout
Available on Blu-ray and DVD
The name Oscar should never even come to mind when thinking about this sequel to the very funny raunch com Horrible Bosses This new adventure follows our heroes (played by Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis) as they attempt to start their own company with a ludicrous invention. After they get screwed over by a ruthless business man (played by Christoph Waltz), they, of course, try to get revenge. While there are some laughs to be had here, the entire storyline is so ludicrous and unbelievable that it gets annoying. I love all of the many actors involved and I can appreciate what they bring to the table, but I was taken out of the film by its absolute lack of any sense of reality or organic action. C

New in Home Entertainment – February 17, 2015


New in Home Entertainment

February 17, 2015

Life Itself
Rated R for brief sexual images/nudity and language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
The primary reason that you are reading this review, written by me, is the subject of this extremely well-made documentary. While most kids in my youth were watching cartoons and wrestling on Saturday mornings, I couldn’t wait to tune into At the Movies with Siskel and Ebert. Roger Ebert was a weird kind of idol to have as a youngster, but his insight greatly enriched my life and his suggestions have led to some of my greatest film discoveries. Covering his lifespan, from his humble beginnings to his tragic end, this movie is one of the most fitting portraits one could possibly dream up. Directed by one of Ebert’s favorite directors, Hoop Dreams’ Steve James, and featuring dozens of people whose lives were touched by the cantankerous critic, the film is is packed with emotion, both happy and sad. It’s easy to give this film, and Ebert’s life, a big thumbs up. A

The Theory of Everything
Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and suggestive material
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
One of this year’s biggest surprises was this quite amazing biopic telling the true story of the life of astrophysicist Stephen Hawking. One would think that a film of this sort would be a depressing and cold picture, but Theory turns out to be the opposite. Thanks to an amazing script and superb direction, as well as two of the best performances of the year by Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, the film evolves into a vibrant tale of life and even a beautiful although bittersweet romance. A

St. Vincent
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material including sexual content, alcohol and tobacco use, and for language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Now that Wes Anderson has been making films for 20 years, it is inevitable that young directors growing up on his films will create similar products. In writer/director Ted Melfi’s first major league film, he manages to get Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts and Chris O’Dowd to do this lovable, Andersonesque story about a grumpy old man who befriends the young boy who lives next door. What starts out as a predictable raunch com, quickly turns into a deeper film about what its like to be a boy growing up as well as a man winding down. It’s hard to believe that a movie such as this could convert into a heart-warming comedy, but it’s so welcome when it does. B+

The Homesman
Rated R for violence, sexual content, some disturbing behavior and nudity
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Tommy Lee Jones stars and directs this western about a plain woman (Hillary Swank) who volunteers to escort three women with prairie fever from their homes in Nebraska to a church in Iowa. What The Homesman has going for it is also its downfall: its authenticity. I’ve no doubt that these kinds of things happened, but they are not fun to watch. While it has some interesting and weird twists and turns, its miseries make the viewer miserable in return. C

Game of Thrones: The Complete Fourth Season
Rated TV-MA
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
After the much-talked-about season three of HBO’s hit show based on George R.R. Martin’s best selling novels, there was no telling where season four would go, but the journey has once again been worth the traveling in season four. With an ever-bigger budget and a bolder direction, we are edging closer to a grand finale that I hope is still years away. There are so many unforgettable moments but thankfully all of my favorite characters have managed to stay alive and some of my most hated villains have met their doom. Of course that means more will come to fill their shoes in season five, set to premier on April 12. Winter is still coming. A

New in Home Entertainment – February 10, 2015


New in Home Entertainment

February 10, 2015

Rated R for violence including graphic images, and for language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
When you are young, sick, twisted and entrepreneurial, the world is your oyster. That’s what young Jake Gyllenhaal discovers when he comes upon the promise of a new profession offering fame and fortune to freelance camera crews who capture crime and accident scenes, as they happen, to sell them to the highest bidding news station. While Jake has done some good work in the past, nothing comes close to his performance here. Gritty and more than ethically dubious, the movie will have you feeling repulsed, appalled and drawn in at the same time. It’s the closest thing to a modern-day seventies film we’ve had since, well, the seventies. A

Rated R for language, some sexual material and teen partying
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Keira Knightly stars in this dramedy about a 28 year old girl who was the life of the party in high school but who has gone nowhere since. With one week to go before her wedding, she decides to lay low by moving into the house of a high school girl she buys beer for at the liquor store (Chloe Grace Moretz). What could have been a nice coming of age, what will I do with my life kind of movie, is lazily converted into a romantic comedy that you unfortunately see coming a mile away. While I love the actors, and even the acting, I could care less for the script. I almost wish they would have focused more on the relationship between Knightly and Moritz rather than horning in on the dad. Either way, the film has some nice moments, but there’s not enough here to interest most audiences. C+

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Rated PG for rude humor including some reckless behavior and language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Young Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) is in the middle of a life crisis where everything goes wrong that can while his parents (Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner) and siblings are enjoying their perfect lives. After making a wish for a reversal of fortune, his luck changes, as does theirs, creating an eventfully awful experience for everyone associated. One thing Disney has always succeeded at is the family-friendly comedy and this one is par for the course. While predictable and cliched, it is fun to watch for kids and adults alike and will help you appreciate a lack of drama in your own life. B+

Force Majeure
Rated R for some language and brief nudity
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
In Swedish and English with English subtitles
This Canne Film Festival award winner follows the life of a young family on a ski trip where the father undergoes a serious analysis of his priorities, courage and very manhood after being exposed to a deadly-looking avalanche. The film plays like a psychodrama, but due to the very nature and discomfort of all involved, it ends up being a wildly funny comedy through its effective use of supreme discomfort. The acting is seriously good by the small but talented cast and I really enjoyed the presence of the creepy but caring ginger-bearded friend played by Game of Thrones’ Kristofer Hivju. A-

New in Home Entertainment – February 3, 2015


New in Home Entertainment

February 3, 2015

Dear White People
Rated R for language, sexual content and drug usage
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
When I was in junior high I went to go see Spike Lee’s School Daze and to this day I still remember how uncomfortable I was in that theater. Part of the reason was the culture shock and part was I was sitting next to my mom in a mostly black theater. After seeing an interview with writer/director Justin Simien on the Colbert Report concerning what I incorrectly thought was a similar film, I immediately reflected back on that discomfort and chose not to see or review the film while it was in theaters. This being a light week for DVD releases, I decided to check it out in the privacy of my own home and I’m glad I did. The film follows a group of black and white students at an Ivy league school dealing with modern race relations where white students think racism is over and black students think it is changed but just as present as in the days of their grandparents. The film, while slanted away from my thinking, is thoughtful and thought provoking. Making fun of films by filmmakers such as Tyler Perry, the movie attempts to be, in my opinion, a black film as much for whites as it is for blacks. That’s a difficult task, especially considering that it will most likely be interpreted very differently by both. Making the movie even more interesting is that it explores stereotypes of whites and blacks while both exploiting the stereotypes and tearing them down at the same time. Overall, it is a well-written, well-directed script with an extremely talented cast that left me in a much more comfortable (although still challenged) state than Spike’s film from 1988. Then again, things might have been different if I had also watched this one with my mom in that same theater (which is now a gun range of course). A-

Dracula Untold
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of warfare vampire attacks, disturbing images, and some sensuality
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Luke Evans (The Hobbit) plays the man who would become Dracula and what lead to his infamy and curse. One of my fondest memories of Bram Stoker’s Dracula by Francis Ford Coppola was the history of Dracula. The stylized recreation has stuck in my mind for more than 20 years now. So I was excited to see a full-length feature based on this myth. Unfortunately, the project was tackled by filmmakers with poor vision who were unable to do the story justice. There are many faults to this such as miscasting, overuse and misuse of effects and too flashy of a production. More than any of its other faults, though, is creating a PG-13 universe. A vampire film with so little blood is simply lame. I guess they wanted to bring teenagers into the fold but what a waste here. C-