New in Home Entertainment – May 9, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

May 9, 2017

A Dog’s Purpose
Rated PG for thematic elements and some peril
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 31%
Like a two-hour-long Hallmark commercial, A Dog’s Purpose attempts to force its audience to cry for pretty much the entire time by showing us multiple stories about a dog going from life to life, attempting to keep its humans happy in spite of their abilities to be good owners or not. While I doubt there are many who will love this film, I think most dog lovers (myself included) will appreciate it and its attempt to capture what it is to be a dog in search of love and acceptance from the world around it. Some of the stories are especially manipulative, such as the police dog storyline, but the truth hurts sometimes, which in its own cheesy way, this film attempts to portray. Yes it is sometimes cruel, but it nonetheless honest in its portrayal of our four-legged friends and what drives them to make us humans love them. C+

Rated R for adult situations/language, sex and violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%
In 1995 Michael Mann brought together Robert De Niro as a bank robber facing Al Pacino as a cop trying to bring him down, in one of the greatest crime dramas of the modern era. This new edition does offer an hour of decent new features, but it would have been nice to instead have a 4k restoration for us cinephiles who truly love this epic drama. So if you already own it on 1080p, this might not have enough to offer in order to purchase again, but if you don’t, or better yet if you haven’t seen it yet, this is one movie you must check out. A

Inside Amy Schumer: Season Four
Comedy Central’s hit sketch comedy show, featuring one of America’s hottest comics, takes a slight stumble after its amazing season 3 (The 12 Angry Men episode had me in stitches) but still provides a tremendous amount of laughter, although it is certainly hit and miss. The season starts off strong as she tries to perform for Hamilton’s Lin Manuel Miranda in a Hamilton knock off, but tends to bore in many of its later season sketches. Still, there is no doubt that this is one insanely funny and talented woman who is willing to take a chance to make us both laugh and think while she explores comedy’s edges. B-

New in Home Entertainment – May 2, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

May 2, 2017

The Salesman
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements and a brief bloody image
In Persian with English Subtitles
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
Iranian writer/director Asghar Farhadi claimed his second foreign film Oscar with this latest tale about a modern Iranian couple struck by tragedy and emotional damage when the wife is brutally attacked in their home. While the film was probably a huge benefactor of revolt against the recent travel ban, and even the speech upon winning was as much about politics as it was art, the storytelling here is excellent and worthy of accolades regardless. Farhadi’s films are a portal into a world and culture which we as westerners feel to be barbaric and alien, but upon further inspection appear to be incredibly similar to our own. This one in particular is an especially human tale for which it is easy to find empathy and introspection. The couple here are both professional actors performing Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, which truly allows the audience to connect with them both on stage and off as they deal with the heavy drama of their own lives. A-

The Red Turtle
Rated PG for some thematic elements and peril
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
This Oscar-nominated Studio Ghibli film finds a young man shipwrecked on a deserted island, desperate to escape. But every attempt to do so is thwarted by a strange creature whose goal is ultimate not sinister in nature. The film contains no words or subtitles and sweeps in and out like a vivid and beautiful dream. At first you find yourself a little sleepy, then pulled in, and finally mesmerized as you discover the secrets and ultimately live the adventure with him. While it is animated and rated PG, I don’t think the little ones will especially love it, but if they do – who knows – you may have a future cinephile on your hands. A-

I Am Not Your Negro
Rated PG-13 for disturbing violent images, thematic material, language and brief nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 99%
Upon his death in 1987, James Baldwin had written only thirty pages of a manuscript that was to become the book “Remember This House,” giving the personal account of the lives and assassinations of three of his close friends: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. Director Raoul Peck here, in this Oscar-nominated documentary, uses his words and archival footage to explore the Civil Rights movement in order to find a deeper connection to modern events. It is a fascinating and well-crafted doc that sheds light on an important era, while trying to make sense of it and its effects on the present. B+

Rated PG-13 for violence/terror, thematic elements, some sexuality and brief drug material
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 6%
Both the original 1998 Asian import Ringu and the 2002 American remake starring Naomi Watts were terrifying films about a young girl trapped in a well and her revenge upon those unlucky enough to get a glimpse of her story on an ominous video tape. But the attempts to breathe life into the franchise have been a complete disaster. This latest one finds a young girl attempting to understand and help the evil spirit while those around her are meeting their doom. The sad thing is that there is potential here, but there is poor talent involved. The writing is atrocious as is the acting and directing. And while the subject matter has been proven to be scary, the images here are almost laughable. This is an unfortunate and lazy attempt at a sequel. F

April 18, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

April 18, 2017

Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic content and behavior, violence and some language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 75%
M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense) has been slowly building back up from a disastrous string of monumental misfires including The Happening, The Last Airbender and After Earth (I actually liked After Earth, but I seem to be quite alone there). But with 2015’s The Visit and now Split, he’s back, ready to throw you another huge twist. In this latest thriller, James McAvoy is a psycho with 23 distinct personalities, who are all ready to unleash the 24th on the world after kidnapping three teenage girls. While I wasn’t quite taken with the plot, I absolutely loved the performance of McAvoy and think that the film is worth watching just for that reason alone. One of the things I found annoying is that usually the twist is clued and it is fun to try to figure it out. In this case though the big finale comes out of almost nowhere, making the film that much less enjoyable since it was virtually impossible to figure it out beforehand. B-

The Handmaid’s Tale
Rated R for adult situations/language, nudity, violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score 29%
When this film, based on the dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood, came out in 1990, it was a very controversial project. In the story, women throughout the world have become sterile. Those blessed with fertility are sent to pseudo-pseudo convents to be indoctrinated and farmed out for rich male leaders to have babies in spite of their sterile wives. In this case, Robert Duvall brings on Natasha Richardson to give he and his wife, Faye Dunaway, a child. The story and the subject are both relevant and quite frightening. Unfortunately for this project, the script is a mess and not even close to being ambitious enough for the subject. So why is the film coming out now? My guess is that with the current political climate and the new Hulu series based on the same book, they thought it was time to put on blu-ray. Unfortunately, the film still needs to be cleaned up and polished, and it doesn’t appear as if it got a scrub here. And while this version of the work is mediocre at best, I’ve heard amazing things about the new Hulu show, which pops on April 26. C

A League of Their Own
Rated PG for adult situations/language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 77%
Celebrating its 25th Anniversary is this classic comedy about a group of women who join an all-female baseball league while the men of the country are off fighting during WWII. Based on a true story, the film sports Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell as the dysfunctional team who must get their act together to succeed. When it first hit theaters, it felt like a fresh comedy. Now it feels like a period piece, although a good one. And while it has been overplayed, Hanks’s diatribe on crying in baseball is still one of the most iconic lines in movie history, giving the film, or at least the moment, a great relevance even today. B-

New in Home Entertainment – April 11, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

April 11, 2017

Hidden Figures
Rated PG for thematic elements and some language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
I felt for certain that, while this was a nice story, that it must be highly sensationalized to think that three black women could have had such an impact on NASA and their early astronaut program – at the height of the civil rights movement, a time when neither blacks nor women were allowed by many industries to truly contribute. But it doesn’t take a lot research to discover that their story is mostly true (some relationships, facts and drama had to be changed for the sake of the story). I’m also truly surprised this story hasn’t made it to the big screen yet. But I’m glad that their legacy got this movie as it is really well-made with three amazing actresses (Taraji P Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae) as the leads and a supporting cast filled with A-listers (Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons and the freshly-crowned Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali). And with a PG rating, the film is safe to inspire and teach all ages. A


Toni Erdmann
Rated R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity, language and brief drug use
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
This German import had a ton of buzz going for it when the Iranian drama The Salesman surprisingly beat it out at the Oscars, but it still racked up an impressive number of critical awards in 2016 and is worth a look if you are into foreign cinema. The story follows a lonely father who, after the death of his dog, decides to drop in on his workaholic daughter, pretending to be an eccentric businessman to her many coworkers and clients. While in America this might pass as a family drama with a sense of humor, here – this is German slapstick. And while the third act is a little over-the-top (get ready for a lot of nudity), the whole thing ends up as touching and smart as it is goofy. Personally, I didn’t think it was an Oscar-caliber film, but it is different and quirky, which are things I do like to see now and then. B+

Monster Trucks
Rated PG for action, peril, brief scary images, and some rude humor
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 32%
I am picturing some now out-of-work executive thinking to himself “kids love monsters and kids love trucks – so what if the truck was operated by a monster?” And so the studio gave him millions (the estimated budget was $125 million) and out came this dog turd of a movie. Officially, the story follows a high schooler who adopts a monster released from underground drilling, and then said monster learns to operate his pickup. Running from the oil company security team, the kid tries to deliver his new buddy, and his monster family, to safety. They were going for ET I’m sure, but didn’t quite hit their mark. The special effects are okay, and my six-year-old loved it, but let me tell you – it’s a challenge for adults to get through. D