New in Home Entertainment – April 28, 2015


New in Home Entertainment

April 28, 2015

The Gambler
Rated R for language throughout, snap for some sexuality/nudity
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Mark Wahlberg stars in this dismal drama about a college professor whose reckless gambling endangers not only his own life, but that of his family and friends as well. Movies about gambling have always expressed the negative aspects of the sport, but at least in films such a Rounders and 21, there is some fun to be had as well. The Gambler is negative all the way down and by the end you could care less if he wins or loses. Honestly, it’s a film that shouldn’t have been greenlit, and if it weren’t for Rise of the Planet of the Apes director Rupert Wyatt at the helm, it would have had difficulty getting funding even from indie circles. D

Rated PG for mild action and rude humor
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
While a bigger box office hit outside of the states than within, this highly praised pic about the huggable bear and his adventures in England is an extremely lovable and very funny picture, whether you’re young or old. Upon seeing the first trailer, I’ll admit that my eyes were rolling and I couldn’t imagine myself enjoying a film such as this. But with such a heart-warming yet exciting story and an immensely enjoyable cast of characters, it’s hard to imagine anyone not changing their mind away from any negative misconceptions going in. B+

Inherent Vice
Rated R for drug use throughout, sexual content, graphic nudity, language and some violence
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Ever since Boogie Nights, I’ve been a big fan of Director Paul Thomas Anderson’s work. Even when his films took two or three viewings for me to come around, like with There Will Be Blood, Magnolia and Punch Drunk Love, I found myself really fascinated with his work. Inherent Vice marks the first time I have been disappointed with what I have seen. I’ve tried to watch twice now and this jumbled mess of a film that stars Joaquin Phoenix as a drugged out private eye on a trippy investigation is too much weird and not enough story. Based on the book by Thomas Pynchon, the movie has a cult feel to it but never arises to the level of compelling cinema. C-

Last Days in Vietnam
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
This Academy Award nominated PBS documentary takes an up close and personal look at the final days of the Vietnam War and the impact on both those that got out of Vietnam and those that didn’t. The film is very successful at providing a feeling of what it must have been like to be a patriotic American trying to help a desperate people survive an imminent threat. What it doesn’t do is tackle both sides of the equation, and instead attempts to portray the war as simply the good guys losing. Still, I found it profoundly interesting and a great source of deeper discussions. B

Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Another PBS documentary seeing its debut this week is this masterfully produced documentary from Ken Burns and Barak Goodman, based on the book by Siddhartha Mukherjee. This incredibly ambitious six-hour documentary explores the history, present and future of cancer and its many treatments in a detail never seen before. Expertly crafted, the film works as both a highly informational piece and as a compelling story. And while some of the material will hit you like a ton of bricks, the overall feeling once completed is that of pure hope. A

New in Home Entertainment – April 21, 2015


New in Home Entertainment

April 20, 2015

Escape from New York
Rated R
Available on Blu-ray
Unbeknownst to my mother, Escape from New York was the first Rated R film I ever saw. Back when VHS was a new technology, my friend invited me over to watch this ultra-cheesy B movie about a rogue criminal named Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) who is tasked with rescuing the President of the United States after his plane crashes in New York City, which is now a maximum security prison. Now, almost 35 years after its theatrical release, Escape has a new 2k restoration and the violent cheese nearly melts off of the screen. Sure it’s not a great movie. The acting is bad (even with a stellar cast) and the story is littered with cliches and plot holes. But it is still a fun movie to watch regardless. You get over the nostalgia quickly and move on to a movie whose influence is still seen today. B+

Sullivan’s Travels: The Criterion Collection
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
I love it when I discover old classics that I should have watched and just never knew I needed to. Sullivan’s Travels is such a film. Preston Sturges’s 1941 classic stars Joel McCrea as a big Hollywood director whose desire to make the social drama “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” drives him to want to live on the streets with the poor of society, just to really feel their struggle. Of course he does it in his own wealthy way, making the comedy really come to life. This new digital restoration gives the 74-year-old film a beautifully crisp look and the tale is as relevant now as it was back in the day. In fact, it might be even more relevant as we haven’t really learned from our history and are still reenacting it today. A+

Antarctica: A Year on Ice
Rated PG for mild thematic elements and language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Documentarian Anthony Powell spends a year filming in Antarctica in order to show what it’s like for the souls that brave it out down near the South Pole. I can’t say I’ve ever had a desire to visit the southernmost continent, but that being said, I found this documentary to be both interesting in subject and stunning to look at. Using interviews along with tons of indoor and outdoor photography, you get a real sense of what you would expect if you were to ever make the decision to join the handful of people who live there. What the film doesn’t do is explain why you would want to make such a decision. Personally, I got the sense that to make such a commitment requires not a sense of adventure, but rather a slight absence of mental health. B

New in Home Entertainment – April 7, 2015


New in Home Entertainment

April 7, 2015

Rated R for sexual content, nudity, drug use, and language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Reese Witherspoon stars in this true story about a young woman who sets off on a solo trek across the more than a thousand miles along the Pacific Crest Trail in order to leave behind her regretful past and hopefully point herself to a better future. There’s no doubt that there is a good movie here, but so much of this film is difficult to watch. I’m not a big fan of being witness to such a huge self destruction, even if it does come with a rejuvenation, but Reese does as good a job as she possibly can to tell this story. A lot of people found inspiration in the best-selling book written by Cheryl Strayed, and subsequently in her portrayal on the big screen. And while I think the performance is fantastic and even the production is solid, it’s just not my ideal way to spend two hours. B-

A Most Violent Year
Rated R for language and some violence
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
A Most Violent Year tells the story of an owner of a successful oil-delivery service in 1980’s New York City who desires nothing more than to achieve success without resorting to the violence and corruption that plagues his industry. The most interesting thing about the film is that it fights the urge to become a gangster film. It sells itself as a violent crime drama, but it is only subtly so. While this allows for storytelling that doesn’t resort to cliche, it also disappoints at times because of this. Still, the drama is interesting and performances are strong, so it’s not a complete wash. B-