New in Home Entertainment – September 5, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

September 5, 2017

Meagan Leavey
Rated PG-13 for war violence, language, suggestive material, and thematic elements
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%
Based on her true-life story, Meagan Leavey (played by Kate Mara) is a lost soul who joins the marines in order to find direction. That direction comes in the form of a German Shepherd named Sgt Rex. Completing more than 100 missions in the Middle East together, they bond in a way that makes their lives difficult when their time together is over. The story is fascinating and they put together an excellent cast of supporting actors including Bradley Whitford and Edie Falco in order to tell it well. While it succeeds in getting its points across, it does get overly sentimental and sappy. But it also honors an American hero in a way that will make you have greater appreciation for our dogs in service. B-

Disneynature: Born in China
Rated G
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%
The newest project in Disney’s Earth Day nature documentary series goes to China to show the lives of pandas, golden monkeys and snow leopards. Like other films in the series, the narrator (this time out its John Krasinski) gives an ongoing story for each of the animals and their struggle to survive. While these stories come across as a bit cheesy, they should keep the kids engaged while you revel in the beautiful photography and stunning shots that I would have to imagine were more than difficult to capture. It’s an impressive film that is very easy to enjoy. B+

Daredevil: Season 2
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 74%
While The Avengers have been dominating the big screen, Netflix has given us some excellent Marvel heroes on the small screen as well. And if you belong to the small percentage of non-Netflix subscribers, they are releasing several of their shows this week on Blu-ray and DVD. While not as strong as the first season, this second season featuring the blind lawyer/crimefighter takes the complexity up a notch by adding in Electra and The Punisher as each attempts to clean up Hell’s Kitchen in their own way. While the overall story arch gets muddled with too many ingredients, and sometimes the script and secondary actors prove to be less than impressive, the action is thrilling and the whole thing is rather fun, if you are into this sort of thing. Note to parents, these new Netflix Marvel shows are not meant for young kids. While they technically aren’t rated, they would be considered a soft R due to violence, language and sexual content. B

Narcos: Season 2
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%
Also from Netflix comes this intense drama chronicling the rise and fall of the legendary drug lord Pablo Escobar. In this second season, life becomes increasingly more difficult for the kingpin as not only are the US and Columbian governments hot on his tail – now rival drug lords want to take him out as well. This is a brutal show loaded with great storytelling and a talented cast to tell it. And if you are wondering why you should buy the blu-ray when you have access to Netflix – they threw in some great special features including an intriguing documentary and an audio commentary. A-

New in Home Entertainment – August 22, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

August 22, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, and brief suggestive content
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%
Starlord (Chris Pratt) and his crew of misfits are back again and in a lot of trouble for stealing from the wrong aliens when his father (played by Kurt Russell) comes into the picture to save the day, or maybe make things worse. Just like most of the galaxy, I was blown away by the original Marvel film two years ago. It was fresh, funny, thrilling and surprising. But it also left some humongous shoes to fit into for any inevitable sequels. Here they try to keep the comedic spirit alive almost too much, but I do admire the attempt. Its tongue-in-cheek nature gets in its own way, but it only seldomly loses its charm. As for story – it’s way too long and full of itself, but it does give you a better understanding of Quill’s world from many angles. I was a little distraught that the first film was relatively kid-friendly, but this one takes the language and innuendo up a very large notch. But then they give us baby Groot to somewhat neutralize it. B-

Rated R for crude sexual content, brief nudity, and language throughout
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 35%
Amy Schumer plays an entitled and dense blonde who takes her mother (Goldie Hawn) to Ecuador on a vacation after her boyfriend breaks up with her and none of her friends want to go with her. Once there, they get kidnapped and must find a way to escape and safely make it to the embassy in Columbia. Unlike her first feature Trainwreck, this film is a real mess that doesn’t work either as a comedy or an adventure. The jokes are somewhat pathetic attempts at humor and while there are a few chuckles here and there, the picture fails over and over again. Schumer and Hawn should have never made this film and it could really end up doing damage to both of their careers. D

Rated R for language throughout, crude sexual content, and graphic nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 19%
Yet another failed Rated R comedy from the summer is this attempt at bringing the campy TV hit to the screen with the very lovable Dwayne Johnson in the lead and the also lovable Zac Efron right behind him. Just like Snatched, the movie fails as both a comedy and as an action pic. It is slow, boring, unfunny, and most unfortunately – not sexy. Unlike Snatched, the film probably won’t hurt the careers of Johnson or Efron as they’ve built up enough Hollywood capital – but they need to be more careful at what crappy scripts they pick or these kinds of projects can have the ability to put them in the toilet. D

New in Home Entertainment – August 15, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

August 15, 2017

Alien: Covenant
Rated R for sci-fi violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality/nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71%
Original Alien director Ridley Scott brings us this Prometheus sequel/Alien prequel that follows a group of terraformers as they put off their mission in order to investigate an unknown planet. When they get there they discoverer the synthetic human David (again played by Michael Fassbender) alone in what used to be some sort of major civilization. I am very mixed on this film. It has really great potential and a highly intelligent theme. After all, the question of how we came to be and why has defined mankind since their existence on the planet. But there are so many stupid plot devices, just as we saw in Prometheus. Perhaps the sloppiest of these was the catalyst scene which shows the first infection. After all, these folks are on a mission that could not have been deviated by an interesting planet. And also, you wear a helmet not just for the oxygen, but to also keep away potentially dangerous pathogens from an unknown planet. Just because you can breathe doesn’t mean you are free to inhale the natives. And these folks would have known that. These types of flaws take me out of the film when they could easily be thought through and corrected. C+

Rated R for language throughout, drug use, sexuality/nudity and some bloody images
Rotten Tomatoes Score 79%
In the seventies, boxer Chuck Wepner had a promising career, a loving wife and kid and and he was even Sylvester Stallone’s inspiration for Rocky. But between stupid life choices, like cheating on his wife and using (and selling) drugs, he managed to throw it all away. Here Lieb Schrieber portrays the could-have-been famous fighter as he unravels his life. The acting is quite good here with a tremendously talented cast including Schreiber’s real-life wife Naomi Watts, Jim Gaffigan and Elisabeth Moss. But the acting isn’t the problem here. Watching a man throw away his life has never been the secret to a successful box office. And while most of the writing is good, the third act throws away the fight as it loses momentum and can’t find a way to safely get from point B to point C without looking wimpy. The story tries to land a feel good punch at the end, but it is a little underwhelming to say the least. B-

How to Be a Latin Lover
Rated PG-13 for crude humor, sexual references and gestures, and for brief nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 38%
Upon first seeing this trailer I couldn’t believe that this film was actually hitting real theaters and that it was doing so with such a great cast including Salma Hayek, Rob Lowe, Kristen Bell, Rob Cordry, Rob Riggle and Michael Cera. The film, directed by Ken Marino, follows a once-suave Latino man (Eugenio Derbez) who is dumped by his much older and much richer wife. In an attempt to woo another rich senior, he enlists his young nephew who he must teach to be as sexy as he is. While the story is very flawed and entirely stupid, the amazing ensemble of actors put in their best and they look like they are having fun in the process. So while I would have normally hated this film, I found myself chuckling under my breath and surprised at my lack of harsh judgment. C+

New in Home Entertainment – August 1, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

August 1, 2017

Rated R for language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%
Anne Hathaway is a writer who has lost her way. When her boyfriend breaks up with her, she moves from New York City back to her small hometown where she is able to reconnect with an old friend (Jason Sudeikis). Then one day she wakes up to discover that a giant monster has attacked Seoul, South Korea, and to make matters worse, and weirder, she discovers that she controls the every move of this monster. The daring creativity on display is a stunning example of an imagination gone wild. Yes it’s a little crazy and sure you have to constantly ask yourself “what is this?,” but the further you go through the rabbit hole the better it gets. B+

Going in Style
Rated PG-13 for
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 46%
When three retired friends (Oscar winners Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin) discover they are going to lose their pension, they risk everything by deciding to rob a bank in order to safely make it through their golden years and stick it to the man. With all of this talent, including the usually great director Zach Braff, you’d think you were looking at a classic caper comedy. But instead you get a stale adventure that is way too light on laughs. It’s a great thought but poor execution. C+

New in Home Entertainment – July 25, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

July 25, 2017

Kong: Skull Island
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for brief strong language
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 76%
It was only 12 years ago when Universal gave us Peter Jackson’s terrific vision of King Kong, but in an attempt to rebuild a monster movie franchise, they are at it again. This time Kong is much bigger, and the bad guys are the humans trying to kill him, led by Samuel L Jackson. Meanwhile, the heroes, led by Tom Hiddleston (The Avengers) and Brie Larson (Room) try desperately to escape from Skull Island while at the same time keeping the giant ape alive. It’s a fun enough popcorn movie with tons of action and some really great effects. It also has an impressive sense of humor due to the antics of the always great and goofy John C. Reilly. Overall I’m excited to see what Universal does as they prepare to pair up Kong with Godzilla for a big monster mash up. B

Ghost in the Shell
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, suggestive content and some disturbing images
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 45%
Based on the Japanese manga of the same name, Ghost stars Scarlett Johansson as a robot with a human brain who is programmed to be a leader in an anti-terrorist military unit. The film itself is beautiful to look at but lacks the screenplay and the vision necessary to pull it off. The actors are definitely well-chosen, but there is an awkward spirit to the film (no pun intended) that keeps it from achieving greatness. Perhaps its the PG-13 rating that holds it back from reaching its potential. Or maybe they just put too much emphasis on production rather than the substance of the story. C+

New in Home Entertainment – July 17, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

July 17, 2017

The Lost City of Z
Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, brief strong language and some nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
Based on the non-fiction best-seller by David Grann, The Lost City of Z follows the legacy left by British officer and explorer Percy Fawcett, as he attempts to discover a mythical city off of the unexplored Amazon in the early twentieth century. Charlie Hunnam turns in a solid performance as the adventurer, but Sienna Miller as his wife shines in a stellar supporting role. While the film is disjointed and largely unfocused, historically it has value and helps us better understand the lives of those who first explored South America. B

The Promise
Rated PG-13 for thematic material including war atrocities, violence and disturbing images, and for some sexuality
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 50%
Inspired by true events, The Promise carries a bad title but an impressive resume, as it tells the story of a sort-of love triangle between an Armenian medical student (Oscar Isaac), an AP journalist (Christian Bale) and a young woman caught in the middle (Charlotte Le Bon), all set against the Armenian genocide in the early 20th century. Written and directed by Terry George (Hotel Rwanda), the film plays like a big saga, but with little chemistry between any of its leads, and a story that lacks the emotional punch it should carry, you end up with an historical epic that is much better at the history part than the actual story-telling. It could have been, and should have been, great. C+



New in Home Entertainment – July 11, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

July 11, 2017

Not Rated but would be an R due to language and violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%
Available on Netflix
With the success they have seen in television-style shows, Netflix has been pumping money into movies and Okja is one of their very high-profile projects of the year. Written and directed by South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon Ho (Snowpiercer, The Host), and executive produced by Brad Pitt, Okja is a story about a meat processing company who creates a super pig to meet the world’s meat demands and thus creates a worldwide competition for best pig to see which country comes out on top. In this case, a South Korean girl raises one of these pigs (named Okja) and over 10 years has become best friends with it. When the company tries to take Okja back, the girl, along with an animal liberation group, attempt to steal the pig from the corporation. This is a wildly creative story which is well-told with impressive CG effects. What I found most fascinating was the terrific cast. While half of the film is in Korean with unfamiliar actors, the English-speaking cast includes Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Steven Yeun, Lily Collins and others. One final note – before you put this on for the kids, please note that this is not for them. Honestly, they could have made an ET-like version of the film with the language and some violence removed, but this project would be considered a strong R if rated. A-

The Zookeeper’s Wife
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, disturbing images, brief sexuality, nudity and smoking
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 61%
Based on the novel by Diane Ackerman, which is based on a true Holocaust story, Jessica Chastain is the wife a zookeeper in Warsaw who houses Jews in their zoo after the Nazis exterminate their animals. At its heart it is a remarkable story, but here it is poorly told. Director Niki Caro (Whale Rider) seems to be phoning it in and the narrative suffers as the film moves through its paces. This should have been a much better, much more emotionally exhausting piece, and instead we just have a better glimpse of an unfamiliar group of heroes. B-

Straw Dogs: The Criterion Collection
Rated R
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%
Back in 1971, this Sam Peckinpah film starring Dustin Hoffman as an American mathematician fighting off a group of crazed locals at his British cottage was considered an uber-violent thriller. And while it is still rather gory, by today’s standards it is not unsettling so. But still, I love its dark demeanor and Hoffman’s understated performance as the meek math geek who is competent and calm as he takes on the bad guys. That being said, the rape scene is a misogynistic nightmare that could never be filmed in the present and would have improved the original tremendously had it been omitted. With the typical amount of extras Criterion includes here, it is a great title for collectors and film aficionados, but might be out of place for the average audience looking to watch older films. B-

New in Home Entertainment – June 27, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

June 27, 2017

T2 Trainspotting
Rated R for drug use, language throughout, strong sexual content,  graphic nudity and some violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 78%
Being that 1996’s Trainspotting is one of my all-time favorite movies, I was extremely excited to see what director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire) could do with this long-awaited sequel.  Taking place 20 years later, the old team of Mark, Spud and Sick Boy, (Ewan McGergor, Ewen Bremner and Jonny Lee Miller) get together for another bit of illegal enterprise (dealing in sex instead of heroine like before), only to be haunted by their old teammate Begbie (Robert Carlyle) who has escaped from prison with the one goal of revenge alone in his priorities.  While dark in tone, the film plays like a comedy and provides some of the biggest laughs I’ve seen at the movies this year.  While not as impactful as its predecessor, I found the film to be immensely enjoyable and still surprisingly insightful.  A

Rated R for crude sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language, some violence and drug use
Rotten Tomatoes 16%
With the moderately impressive successes of old TV throwbacks like 21 Jump Street, it makes sense that some studio would throw some money at the old hit CHIPS (California Highway Patrol) in the hopes of another retro-based hit.  Here Dax Sheppard, who writes, directs and stars as Jon Baker, teams up with undercover agent Frank Poncherello (Michael Pena) to take down crime.  Honestly, this film had me bored from the very start.  I like Sheppard and Pena, but the script here is simply awful and unfunny and unfortunately a miserable theatrical experience.  I have no doubt there were good intentions, but man is this comedy a true stinker, worthy of the bad reviews and insults it has received.  F

The Pink Panther Collection
Blake Edwards’ classic 60s, 70s and 80’s Pink Panther films get the blu-ray touch here with this collection highlighting the talents of one of the greatest actors in Hollywood history, Peter Sellers, as his French inspector Jacques Clouseau chases down jewel thieves.  While not all of the films are necessarily worth your attention, they make for a highly entertaining collection.  This six-movie set includes The Pink Panther, A Shot in the Dark (my favorite), The Return of the Pink Panther, The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Revenge of the Pink Panther and Trail of the Pink Panther.  And because it highlights Sellers rather than all of the other Panther films without him, there is a cohesiveness and pattern to the set that is best felt with these six pictures.  B+

New in Home Entertainment – June 20, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

June 20, 2017

Rated R for language throughout, some sci-fi violence and terror
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 67%
This sci-fi horror flick follows a group of scientists who discover a rapidly evolving life form that will do anything to survive. If you’ve read the synopsis or seen the trailer, you will think that this is just an Alien knock-off pic. And you’d be correct except for one thing – the cast. This film smells of B-movie, but the cast is A-list, which makes you think there’s something more. With Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds heading up the small but exceptional team, you think that you’re going to possibly get a greater than expected experience. The action and the acting are good, but the only thing I was surprised about was how predictable the film was. The characters’ choices and the ensuing results from those choices fall in line with the formula. It’s not all bad though. There are some extremely frightening creep-crawly moments throughout and it is a better-made film than the latest actual Alien franchise pic: Alien: Covenant. B-

South Park: The Complete Twentieth Season
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
Now in its twentieth season on Comedy Central, South Park is still trying to keep it fresh and this season not only delivers the goods comedy-wise, but offers up a remarkable social commentary as well. Watching their take on the recent 2016 election will make you laugh out loud, but the whole season is a buildup of one long joke that by the end isn’t funny but rather shows an honest and insightful look at how social media has had an adverse effect on our population. Its a strange and yet powerful season for a show that keeps pushing the envelope. A-

New in Home Entertainment – June 13, 2017

New in Home Entertainment

June 13, 2017

The Lego Batman Movie
Rated PG for rude humor and some action
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
Batman was so popular in 2014’s The LEGO Movie that Warner Brothers immediately gave him his own movie. The story, inconsequential as it is, follows the caped crusader as he both attempts to stop The Joker from taking over Gotham City and becomes more awkwardly social as he befriends and adopts the young Robin. The voice talent here is as good as it gets with Will Arnett as Batman, Michael Cera as Robin and Zach Galifianakis as The Joker. In addition, the movie is extremely funny, most of the time. I think if it were any longer than 90 minutes it might start to get stale, but the pacing is almost perfect and you can’t help but walk away smiling. It helps that these new Lego movies are actually concerned with keeping the adults engaged, thus making everyone in the audience happy rather than just the youngins. B+


John Wick: Chapter 2
Rated R for strong violence throughout, some language and brief nudity
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
No one could have predicted that Keanu Reeves could have made such an impressive comeback in a project like the hitman thriller John Wick, but indeed he did, and the filmmakers once again put out some extremely creative violence in this crazy sequel which finds Reeves going further down the rabbit hole as pretty much the entire planet is out to kill him. While the action and violence are highly stylized and fun to watch, the villains could have been much stronger and much more worthy of our time. That being said, the movie is engaging and weird and full of surprises. And although its violence comes at a bad time in regard to current world events, the killing in this film seems so distant from the world we live in that somehow it manages to be enjoyable rather than upsetting. Coming from a non-violent, pacifist film critic, that is saying something. B