A Perfect Day Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Benicio Del Toro, Tim Robbins
  • Director: Fernando León de Aranoa
  • Format: Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    R
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • Release Date: July 19, 2016
  • Run Time: 106 minutes




        The ironically titled A Perfect Day is single-minded in its approach to show a 24-hour period in the life and efforts of a group of combat zone aid workers, for better or worse. The simple premise allows ample opportunity to show the realistic frustrations of battling bureaucracy and bullish locals in the attempt to accomplish simple humanitarian goals. This is done with an almost whimsical tone that allows wit to carry the narrative without losing sight of the gravity of war. Even though there is drama and suspense, the dry humor consistently sets the tone for a film about inaction.

Miles Ahead Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Michael Stuhlbarg, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Lakeith Stanfield, Don Cheadle, Ewan McGregor
  • Director: Don Cheadle
  • Producers: Don Cheadle, Vince Wilburn, Pamela Hirsch, Lenore Zerman, Darryl Porter
  • Format: Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese, Thai, Spanish, English
  • Dubbed: French, Portuguese, Thai, Spanish
  • Audio Description: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    R
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: July 19, 2016
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: December 31, 2019
  • Run Time: 100 minutes




        Co-written, produced, directed and starring Don Cheadle, Miles Ahead is clearly a vanity project for an actor often delegated to play supporting characters to show his ability as a leading actor and as a director. Biopics have an awful reputation of providing this opportunity for actors trying to stretch themselves, but this is not reason alone to unfairly judge Miles Ahead. If it is predictable in its conception, at the very least the film takes an unconventional approach to the material. Even with some expected flashback sequences of the usual pitfalls of fame, the portion of the film taking place during Davis’ later years is refreshingly unique despite staying tied to typical themes of addiction and suffering.

Van Gogh Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Jacques Dutronc, Bernard Le Coq
  • Director: Maurice Pialat
  • Disc Format: NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    R
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: July 12, 2016
  • Run Time: 159 minutes




        Even by the 1990s the biopic was already something of a predictable sub-genre, just as it has now become traditional fodder for award season. Even in 1991, Maurice Pialat’s Van Gogh was rather innovative in the approach toward a typical narrative of the struggling artist. Nearly every biopic of an artist or a musician that I have seen in the last decade has included some of the same elements of Van Gogh (addiction, suffering, depression), but Pialat doesn’t dwell on the melodrama as others did before him and have since. While Vincent Van Gogh may have even been more tortured than the rest, Pialat doesn’t sensationalize this for dramatic purposes. Instead, he shows us a fairly uneventful recreation of Van Gogh’s final days.

The Dresser DVD Review

  • Actors: Anthony Hopkins, Ian McKellen, Emily Watson, Vanessa Kirby
  • Director: Richard Eyre
  • Format: Anamorphic, Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Studio: ANCHOR BAY
  • DVD Release Date: July 12, 2016
  • Run Time: 109 minutes




        Cinema has a long tradition of borrowing from the theater, but the two mediums don’t always line up perfectly. Film is a far more visual medium, and the dialogue-heavy stories from the stage can often be noticeably stagnant onscreen. This easily could have been the case with The Dresser, Richard Eyre’s TV movie adaptation of Ronald Harwood’s stage play, had the casting been any different. Ian McKellen and Anthony Hopkins often approach the material with the rawness only seen in live performances, but also give the subtle nuances often lost without a camera or front row theater tickets.

Belladonna of Sadness Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Aiko Nagayama, Tatsuya Nakadai, Chinatsu Nakayama
  • Director: Eiichi Yamamoto
  • Disc Format: DTS Surround Sound, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: Japanese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Studio: Cinelicious Pics
  • Release Date: July 12, 2016
  • Run Time: 87 minutes




        There is little reference for a film like Belladonna of Sadness in modern cinema, a psychedelic adult animated feature from 1973 which is equal parts exploitation and art film. One could easily find the influence of director Eiichi Yamamoto’s film in modern manga and anime, and somehow Belladonna of Sadness still remains unique in its style and tone. The film exists in the world of exploitation, but titillation rarely seems to be the purpose of the shocking imagery. Mixing psychology with the supernatural in order to tell an erotic tale of revenge, this is a cult film unlike any other, now or then.

Marguerite & Julien DVD Review

  • Actors: Anaïs Demoustier, Jérémie Elkaïm
  • Director: Valérie Donzelli
  • Format: Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Unrated
  • Studio: MPI Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: July 12, 2016
  • Run Time: 103 minutes




        The only consistency within Marguerite & Julien is the idiocy with which it is constructed, each moment failing to achieve the desired result unless director Valérie Donzelli only intended to make a movie for the purpose of mockery. This is a film of vanity mixed with vapid stylistic decisions, all resulting in a romance which is all pretension and no pathos. Adapted from a screenplay originally written for François Truffaut, even the moments of anachronistic additions to the true story come off as imitation rather than originality. This is an awful film which feels like a copycat attempt at an art film from a filmmaker who doesn’t even understand the sources being mimicked.

The Preppie Connection DVD Review

  • Actors: Thomas Mann, Lucy Fry
  • Director: Joseph Castelo
  • Format: Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    R
  • Studio: MPI Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: July 12, 2016
  • Run Time: 97 minutes




        Based on a true story that was scandalously diverting enough to be picked up by the media outlets in 1984, the premise of The Preppie Connection is effortlessly engaging. The problem is that there isn’t much depth beyond what made the headlines, even with liberties taken with character development and added action. Nearly all of the relationships in the film feel rather self destructive, and even a last-minute moral crossroads which hints at redemption from the greed mantra of the 1980s comes a bit too late to care. Because of the headlines the film is based on, we know that their crimes will eventually be exposed and it is difficult to feel any sympathy for those involved.

The Dark Horse DVD Review

  • Actors: James Rolleston, Cliff Curtis, Kirk Torrance
  • Director: James Napier Robertson
  • Disc Format: Color, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Dubbed: Spanish
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    R
  • Studio: Broad Green
  • DVD Release Date: July 12, 2016
  • Run Time: 124 minutes




        Despite being based on a true story, the narrative in The Dark Horse resembles the type of formulaic plot seen so often cinematically that few surprises are offered within the lengthy run-time. Fortunately, this New Zealand drama is held together by the committed performances of the cast rather than any originality in the script. It may not offer many surprises, but it tells a familiar story well and does justice to the real people and events it was based upon.

Miracles from Heaven Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Jennifer Garner, Martin Henderson, John Carroll Lynch, Kylie Rogers, Eugenio Derbez
  • Director: Patricia Riggen
  • Producers: T.D. Jakes, DeVon Franklin, Joe Roth
  • Format: Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, Portuguese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, Thai, Spanish, English
  • Dubbed: French, Portuguese, Thai, Spanish
  • Audio Description: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    PG
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: July 12, 2016
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: December 31, 2019
  • Run Time: 109 minutes




        For those with religious beliefs longing for a better faith-based film, Miracles from Heaven is a massive step in the right direction, though it still offers little help to bridge the gap for mainstream audiences unconcerned with religion. The elements of Christian belief are not as prevalent as they have been in the hokey films from the Kendrick brothers (Fireproof, Courageous, War Room), but many of the amateurishly bad filmmaking habits still remain. And there is also the glaringly obvious comparison to Heaven is for Real, which this film imitates with only a gender reversal as its distinguishing alteration on the formula.

Naked and Afraid XL: Season 1 DVD Review


  • Directors: Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir
  • Format: AC-3, Box set, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Studio: LIONSGATE
  • Release Date: July 12, 2016
  • Run Time: 622 minutes




        For those who long for the basic premise of “Survivor” without the games, prizes, and teams, “Naked and Afraid XL” provides much more of what remains. They are not competing for a million dollars and don’t have the luxury of a host appearing to offer them food and resources to make it through the ordeal, but the social element is nearly as important when such clearly different personality types are placed together in extreme conditions. The fact that they are naked is just another obstacle in their survival, though it doesn’t make much difference to the viewing experience beyond an occasional bare butt and the distraction of constant blur.

Kill Zone 2 Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Jing Wu, Tony Jaa, Simon Yam
  • Director: Cheang Pou-Soi
  • Format: Dolby, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, THX, Widescreen
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese, English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Well Go USA
  • Release Date: July 19, 2016
  • Run Time: 121 minutes




        While the plot is heavily reliant on moments of coincidence and melodrama which demand more suspension of disbelief than the physical feats created with wire-work, Kill Zone 2 provides a showcase for the most thrilling martial arts and impressive camera choreography an action film has seen since The Raid 2. Even with the loss of the two biggest names from the original 2005 film, this loose sequel stands on its own merits and provides Tony Jaa with his best cinematic opportunity in years as their replacement. Moments of the story’s drama and some convoluted non-linear editing in the first act are far from perfect, but all is forgiven whenever any of the film’s major action sequences begin.

Dear Eleanor DVD Review

  • Actors: Liana Liberato, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Isabelle Fuhrman, Jessica Alba, Josh Lucas
  • Director: Kevin Connolly
  • Producers: Chuck Pacheco, Caleb Applegate, Hillary Sherman
  • Formatting: Closed-captioned, Color, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, Portuguese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Thai, Spanish, English
  • Dubbed: French, Portuguese, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    PG-13
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: July 5, 2016
  • Run Time: 89 minutes




        It’s never a good sign when a film’s release is delayed three years after the completion of the production, though the reasons are quite clear with Dear Eleanor, which was shot in 2013. This sophomore feature from actor-turned-director Kevin Connolly (“Entourage”) doesn’t seem to know who its audience is, with a screenplay (the first credit from Cecilia Contreras and Amy Garcia, who received a writing grant in 2007 for a film still yet to be made) that carries the sensibility and tone of a Disney Original Movie while including content questionable enough to earn a PG-13 rating. While the saccharine and logic-void narrative is likely only to be appealing to young teen girls, the 1960s-based period film has an odd preoccupation with smoking that no longer flies in family films, not to mention Connolly’s lingering gaze on Jessica Alba’s scantily clad body during several out-of-place strip tease sequences within the film.

I Saw the Light Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Hiddleston, Maddie Hasson, Wrenn Schmidt, Bradley Whitford
  • Director: Marc Abraham
  • Producers: Marc Abraham, Aaron Gilbert, Brett Ratner, G. Marq Roswell
  • Format: Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, Portuguese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Thai, English, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Portuguese, Thai
  • Audio Description: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Rated:
    R
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: July 5, 2016
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: December 31, 2019
  • Run Time: 124 minutes




        Committed performances are always an asset to a film, but I Saw the Light is solid proof that no actors can recover from a bad script. The screenplay is the foundation of a film, and I Saw the Light is built upon a sandy beach in the middle of a storm. Easily one of the least engaging biopics I’ve ever seen, there is no room to care for the characters, no matter how well they are played by the actors. Rather than feeling like a story, this movie plays like a disjointed collection of scenes from the brief country music career of Hank Williams.

The Mermaid Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Yun Lin, Chao Deng, Kris Wu Yifan, Yuqi Zhang, Shangzheng Li
  • Director: Stephen Chow
  • Format: Subtitled
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese
  • Subtitles: French, Polish, Mandarin Chinese, Indonesian, Thai, English, Spanish
  • Dubbed: Thai, English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    R
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: July 5, 2016
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: December 31, 2019
  • Run Time: 94 minutes




        Stephen Chow’s latest, The Mermaid, is a strange film for many reasons. It’s a fairy tale with an environmental message, a plot that sounds like a Disney movie but is paired with sexual innuendo and scenes of graphic violence, and was somehow the highest grossing film in the history of Chinese cinema. Although undeniably entertaining in a unique way, this level of success is difficult to fathom.

Search Party Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: T.J. Miller, Adam Pally, Thomas Middleditch, Alison Brie, Shannon Woodward
  • Director: Scot Armstrong
  • Writers: Scot Armstrong, Mike Gagerman, Andrew Waller
  • Producers: Scot Armstrong, Ori Marmur, Ravi Nandan, Paul Brooks
  • Format: NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), French (DTS 5.1), Spanish (DTS 5.1)
  • Subtitles: Spanish, Dutch, French
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    R
  • Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: July 5, 2016
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: May 2, 2018
  • Run Time: 93 minutes




        Search Party may be shamelessly derivative, culturally insensitive, and weirdly illogical, but I still found myself laughing more than I have at many larger budget Hollywood comedies with similar tones to be released in the past few years (Zoolander 2, Hot Tub Time Machine 2, Dumb and Dumber To, Vacation, and others that weren’t sequels to better films), mostly due to the delivery from the trio of leading men. T.J. Miller, Adam Pally, and Thomas Middleditch are primarily known as TV actors, and perhaps this is why they appear to be trying so hard in their feature-film leading roles. This commitment and solid comedic instincts leads to a few great moments which almost feel unintentional when surrounded by the many jokes which fall flat. Though it probably says more about the sad state of Hollywood comedies in recent years, Search Party is far from the worst I have seen.

Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Li Feng, Mark Chao
  • Director: Lu Chuan
  • Format: Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, THX, Widescreen
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Unrated
  • Studio: Well Go USA
  • Release Date: July 5, 2016
  • Run Time: 115 minutes




        Watching Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe, it finally made sense to me why so many bad Hollywood blockbusters rely on China to pick up the slack on ticket sales for films that bomb in the United States. It isn’t that this is necessarily a bad film, but the incoherency of the narrative is consistently overshadowed by pure visual spectacle. I often had no idea what was going on until the revelations of the third act, but it is also one of the most visually polished films I have seen from China. Everything from cinematography to special effects is highly accomplished, though it is somewhat like building a sturdy house on quicksand. Without the strength of a solid screenplay, all the rest is merely a fleeting distraction until the next big-budget extravaganza is released.

Precious Cargo Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Bruce Willis, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Claire Forlani
  • Director: Max Adams
  • Format: NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    R
  • Studio: LIONSGATE
  • Release Date: June 28, 2016
  • Run Time: 90 minutes




        First off, I must start by pointing out that despite his top billing and prominence on the poster/Blu-ray cover, this is yet another film which Bruce Willis has lent his name and reputation in hopes of fooling consumers into thinking he plays a larger role than he does. Willis is merely a supporting player, no doubt involved in the production for a quick paycheck. This is usually enough to assume that Precious Cargo is just another poorly made low budget action movie, and in many ways that is exactly what it is. The gunplay is entirely too reliant on CGI muzzle flashes, supporting cast are so stiff in their line delivery that one must assume that they are related to the filmmakers, and the screenplay feels lazily compiled from a handful of better action movies. What surprised me was how much I managed to enjoy much of the film even with its obvious shortcomings.

Adventures in Babysitting DVD Review

  • Actors: Sabrina Carpenter, Sofia Carson, Max Lloyd-Jones, Kevin G. Quinn
  • Director: John Schultz
  • Writer: Tiffany Paulsen
  • Format: Color, Dolby, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Studio: Walt Disney Studios
  • DVD Release Date: June 28, 2016
  • Run Time: 90 minutes




        Taking little other than the title from the 1987 classic, Adventures in Babysitting is a typical Disney Channel ‘original’ movie, complete with the usual cheesy characters that end up learning predictably sappy lessons through their sanitized hijinks together. The only thing surprising about this hokey endeavor is the number of questionable habits taught along the way, most of which are at the expense of the clueless parents. Dishonesty and theft are encouraged, while the bigger sin is being too responsible as a teenager. This film tries to be as edgy as the original while existing in a world where bad guys are bumbling idiots and the cops are cute romantic interests. Trying to make the film family-safe while retaining the original premise ends up making this one of the more socially irresponsible children films I have ever seen. On top of that, it’s not very good.

Rams Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Sigurður Sigurjónsson, Theodór Júlíusson, Charlotte Bøving
  • Director: Grímur Hákonarson
  • Format: Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Subtitles: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    R
  • Studio: Cohen Media Group
  • Release Date: June 28, 2016
  • Run Time: 93 minutes




        American audiences accustomed to narrative-driven cinema may have a difficult time with Rams, not because it is lacking in plot but because the characters ultimately take precedence. The Icelandic dramedy actually has an original premise to lean on, but the resolution to this clever scenario is not the filmmaker’s priority. The events within the film service the characters and their ultimate arc, rather than the other way around. For those who can adjust or are more accustomed to this style of storytelling, Rams offers plenty of rewards. Those expecting the film to resolve the dilemma offered by the plot may find the conclusion less satisfying.

Going Away DVD Review

  • Actors: Louise Bourgoin, Pierre Rochefort
  • Director: Nicole Garcia
  • Format: Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Cohen Media Group
  • Release Date: June 21, 2016
  • Run Time: 95 minutes




        Going Away is excellent at mood and atmosphere, setting up a predictable melancholy romance with intriguingly mysterious characters. Dolling out information slowly is the wisest choice that director and co-writer Nicole Garcia makes, but it also leads to a major letdown once all of the secrets are revealed. The questions turn out to be far more engaging than the answers. The third act takes the film into an area of contrived social commentary, but this isn’t even the worst offense. The shift of the narrative handicaps the characters in many ways, but even more disheartening is Garcia’s apparent inability to decide what to do with them once turning the film away lonesome romance narrative and into a discussion about class divisions. All of the effort to get us to care about them in the first hour dissipates as the filmmaker appears uncertain how to end their story. We are left with a final scene, but no real resolution.