New in Home Entertainment – February 28, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

February 28, 2017

Rated R for some sexuality, drug use, brief violence, and language throughout
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%
It’s difficult to pin down the story of Moonlight and describe it to someone, especially if you want to give them cause to check it out But after Sunday night’s monumental Oscar win, a bunch of folks who might not have been interested before, are suddenly going to want to see the picture that took on – and beat – the seemingly unstoppable La La Land. In a nutshell, Moonlight tells three stories about one person. The first act is about a young child in dire need of supervision and guidance, who finds it in the most unconventional of places. The Second act sees the same boy as a teenager, trying to find friendship and connection in a harsh place where anyone who acts different can be pushed to the edge. In the third act, the boy is now a man who, while tough on the outside, is in desperate need of a friend who he can relate to on an intimate level. My fear is that someone will not watch because it is a “gay” film or a “black” film. I would propose that if that is you – you are the main audience for this movie. Far from the way it looks on a surface level, this is not about a gay black child growing up in urban America. It goes far deeper than that, with characters that demand empathy and understanding. Characters that strive for you to see the human in them and not the color of their skin or the preference of their partner. It is a beautiful film, uniquely told – and very deserving of its big night and the attention it is about to receive. A

Doctor Strange
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action throughout, and an intense crash sequence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
Having been a fan of the comic as a teenager, I really didn’t see much of a chance for success for this Marvel movie, but I was holding out hope. Luckily, some wildly creative filmmakers took a relatively obscure super hero and gave him a convincing genesis story with an insanely talented cast and some of the craziest special effects you’ve ever seen in a hero flick. Benedict Cumberbatch plays the once-talented neurosurgeon who loses the ability to operate after a brutal car crash, only to find the ability to manipulate the world around him with the help of some time and space bending monks in Asia. It’s an extremely fun and creative ride that tells a complete story while at the same time setting up further adventures that will have a new audience of fans impatiently waiting. A-

Rated R for some violence, some sexuality/nudity, language and brief drug use
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 62%
Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard star in this big-budget WWII drama from director Robert Zemeckis (Forest Gump) about two spies who fall in love with each other after their mission, only to face problems once home. The first half of this film, where the two are spies on a dangerous mission, really works. It is exciting and thought-provoking, providing an intriguing look at a part of the great war that is rarely shown in film. But when the second act hits, it really misses, giving the audience a dull and overly long narrative that ends with a flat thud. The film is beautiful to look at with spectacular production values, but the way it transforms into a lifeless drama makes it rather difficult to watch. C+

New in Home Entertainment – February 21, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

February 21, 2017

Nocturnal Animals
Rated R for violence, menace, graphic nudity and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 73%
IF you can get through the first five minutes (which have basically nothing to do with the movie), then you will be able to dive into one of the best movies of 2016 that will burn a place into your memory. This Hitchcock-like thriller from writer/director (and clothing designer) Tom Ford, stars Amy Adams as a bored art dealer whose ex-husband, Jake Gyllenhaal, sends her the first look at his big novel about a young family who are violated by a group of west Texas hooligans. Really – the story you’re going to walk away with is that of the novel – but the rest of the film just adds a complexity that demands repeat viewings. And while Adams and Gyllenhaal are very good, the real stars of the film are the supporting characters. Aaron Taylor-Johnson won the Golden Globe for his role as the villain. Meanwhile the officer assigned to help Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, turned in my favorite performance of 2016, which also got him an Oscar nomination. Many of you will not like this film. But those of you who do will most likely be long-time fans. A

Manchester by the Sea
Rated R for language throughout and some sexual content
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
This critically-hailed drama stars Casey Affleck as a New England janitor who is named the legal guardian of his nephew (newcomer Lucas Hedges) after the passing of his brother. While the film itself is as depressing as can be (Affleck even pointed that out during one of the best Saturday Night Live episodes in a decade), it also has a perverse sense of humor that can only be brought out by hurting people trying to find a way, any way, to cope with the death of someone close. It’s a film worth seeing for sure, but it won’t exactly brighten your day. I’m not sure if its best picture-worthy, but the performances by the terrific cast are are worth paying attention to. All this being said, you gotta be in the mood to see and appreciate a film like this – and that’s a hard sell for a lot of folks. B+

Bad Santa 2
Rated R for crude sexual content and language throughout, and some graphic nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 23%
I am one of those people who absolutely loved the first Bad Santa, and laughed hysterically at all of the horrible, foul behavior exhibited by Billy Bob Thornton. So who wouldn’t want more? I realized after the first thirty minutes of watching his new adventure that I don’t actually want to know more about this guy, and his antics are no longer funny but rather sad and pathetic. Was there a way to make number 2 as funny as the first? I don’t know. But this attempt was a depressing thing to watch. D

The Passion of the Christ
Rated R for sequences of graphic violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 49%
When Mel Gibson’s biblical epic The Passion of the Christ was released in 2004, one of the most artistic aspects of the film was that he wanted to create a feel as if you were really there watching. Yes that means it is extremely violent. But he also wanted the language to be realistic so he wrote the screenplay in English and then had a professor translate it into Latin and the dead language Aramaic. Originally he didn’t even want subtitles, but he obviously decided to go with them in the end. So now, after 13 years, we are getting yet another version of the film – this time dubbed into English and Spanish. Both the original and the recut version (the version with some violence removed) are included here. The dub is very decent, not at all like the kung-fu movies you would imagine. I’d still rather see the original and just read, but I do understand the need, both financially and otherwise, to make this subtle change. The movie still holds up as a sobering reminder of what Jesus went through and a remarkable piece of art from an underappreciated artist. A

New in Home Entertainment – February 14, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

February 14, 2017

Rated PG-13 for brief strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
Every few years we get a really great, original science fiction film that makes you think, delivers a meaningful social commentary and completely takes us by surprise. This year that film is Arrival, which just landed eight Oscar nominations including best picture and director. The story follows a scenario where alien ships have appeared all over the planet, and when the U.S. military can’t find a way to communicate with the aliens on board, they enlist the help of a linguistics professor (Amy Adams) to figure out their intentions. As Adams attempts to find a way to decipher the alien language, we, as an audience, attempt to decipher what the film is really telling us. If you are looking for a mindless action pic, this for sure isn’t it. But you might just find yourself feeling a lot smarter after having experienced it. A-

The Edge of Seventeen
Rated R for sexual content, language and some drinking – all involving teens
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
Before you blow off this coming-of-age comedy, as most people did when it was in theaters, please consider giving it a look. Yes its about another awkward girl (Hailee Steinfeld) who gets herself into extremely awkward situations, but rather than the lighthearted PG-13 world you would most likely see in most films of this genre, Edge prefers to be edgy with what feels like a true vibe of the way modern teenagers act, talk and feel. Much more like Juno than American Pie, the film puts you through a lot of discomfort but provides a resolution that will put your soul at ease and help you better understand the teenage human. If none of that interests you, at least check it out for Woody Harrelson’s well-written and even better-performed sarcastic school teacher who gives you hope that there are educators who are more concerned with turning teens into functioning and successful adults rather than merely aiming for a test score. A-

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Rated R for language throughout, some war violence, sexual content, and brief drug use
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 45%
Until very deep into 2016, the film that was most likely headed toward best picture was this war movie directed by Life of Pi’s Ang Lee. The story comes from the point of view of a 19-year-old private who, along with his fellow soldiers, are being honored at a Texas football game for unique bravery. As the moments at the game move by, Lynn flashbacks at his time in Iraq, showing the stark contrast to the life he has to live while home. The battle scenes are few but powerful, providing a background that, by themselves, are riveting. But the scenes in Texas are almost just unbearable, filled with lousy acting and inorganic writing, making it almost look like the direction was at fault. I say almost because I just can’t imagine Lee directing a film that is this flat. This story has been told before, but much, much better than this. C-

Beavis and Butt-Head: The Complete Collection
I’m not going to tell you that there is anything good that could come from watching over 1000 minutes of these loser teens making stupid commentaries on 90s pop culture, but if you’re like me, you’ll do it anyway. Mike Judge’s MTV iconic classic is getting this huge release with hours and hours of content, including their feature length film “Beavis and Butt-Head Do America,” in order to give you an overdose of nostalgia that makes you better appreciate that you eventually grew up – if you did. B

New in Home Entertainment – February 7, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

February 7, 2016

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
In writer/director Jeff Nichols’s latest drama, Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga portray the real-life story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple in 1967 Virginia who had to fight a brave legal battle (that would end at the Supreme Court) just to stay married. Nichols’s gentle take on the subjects is masterful as are the inspiring performances by Negga (Oscar and Golden Globe nominated) and Edgerton (Golden Globe nominated). I was surprised, not at the outcome of the story, but by the fact that it wasn’t a tear jerker but rather just a touching film about love as presented by a couple with the most ironic of last names. Much like the film Hidden Figures, this period pic is both historical and relevant in that while it seems that we have progressed quite a bit, we still have a long, long way to go. A-
Rated PG for some mild rude humor
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 74%
I was certain going in that the very thought of a movie that gives a story to the famous and rather nostalgic dolls would have me cringing in my seat. I’m happy to say that the folks at Dreamworks Animation did an impressive job of creating a fascinating universe for the creatures to live in and the animation, when looked at with a high-res picture is absolutely mesmerizing. And then to add Justin Timberlake as the main character with his already top hit “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” leading the way? Well that was just smart. There’s nothing here that will blow you away, but the creativity on display is easy to appreciate and even easier to enjoy. B

Rated R for strong violence and language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 60%
In this thriller from “Gravity” co-writer Jonás Cuarón, a group of Latinos, including Gael García Bernal, run into a sharp-shooting vigilante (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan in a role similar to his portrayal of Negan on The Walking Dead) who wants to do what the Border Patrol won’t do: pick them off one by one with his rifle. While this film was in production long before talk of a wall became part of the American political campaign, the movie’s release now is timely, although rather sensationalized. There have been many instances of vigilante killings along the border but the violence and scares here make the movie appear more like a snuff film, or at the very least a monster movie, rather than a political statement. Still, the subject gives food for thought as it demonstrates that the people trying to find a way to make a better life for themselves are actual human beings and not an invasion of rats that need to be gotten rid of, or in this case, exterminated. B-