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.  

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Nia Vardalos
  • Director: Kirk Jones
  • Format: Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (DTS 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (DTS 5.1)
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    PG-13
  • Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: June 21, 2016
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: May 2, 2018 




        My Big Fat Greek Wedding is the cinematic equivalent of a one-hit wonder, making an absurd amount of money for a film that cost next to nothing. It also made the career of Nia Vardalos, who has leeched off of this singular success ever since. While occasionally leaning on the this first independent film to get additional projects, primarily from those whose pockets were lined by the first film, Vardalos has mostly vanished from the spotlight in the fourteen years since its release. Audiences didn’t want more of the Portokalos family even a year after the initial release, with a sitcom continuation starring many of the amateur actors failing miserably after only a handful of episodes, so the theatrical sequel My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 reeks of desperation and a last-ditch effort to bleed the franchise dry.

King Georges DVD Review

  • Actors: Georges Perrier, Nicholas Elmi
  • Director: Erika Frankel
  • Details: Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Not Rated
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • Release Date: June 21, 2016
  • Run Time: 77 minutes




        King Georges offers plenty of amusement in the character study of its subject, which is 67-year-old French chef George Perrier and his Philadelphia restaurant Le Bec-Fin, in equal measure. What is missing from the documentary is a clear narrative direction. Although non-narrative cinema is not required to have an opinion about the subject, despite an overabundance of propaganda-fueled films using the medium to make political points or encourage social action, King Georges almost goes too far in the opposite direction. The inexperience of first-time director Erika Frankel is apparent in her noncommittal perspective, instead choosing to allow the narrative to drift aimlessly from sequence to sequence. Nothing is boring, but I had no clear understanding of what the point of the film was by the end.

Anesthesia Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Sam Waterston, Kristen Stewart
  • Director: Tim Blake Nelson
  • Format: Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    R
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • Release Date: June 21, 2016
  • Run Time: 90 minutes




        Tim Blake Nelson’s Anesthesia utilizes a format seen often before, linking several strangers together through a coincidental series of events or accidental intersections. Sometimes this is used to show a sampling of characters within an environment. In Gus Van Sant’s Elephant, it was a high school, though more often than not it tends to be a specific city. The story in Anesthesia takes place primarily in Manhattan (all except one subplot), but the comments about humanity in have no location in mind. Even if the movie takes place in New York, it is relatable to all Americans.

Knight of Cups Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Antonio Banderas, Christian Bale, Brian Dennehy
  • Director: Terrence Malik
  • Format: Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    R
  • Studio: Broad Green
  • Release Date: June 21, 2016
  • Run Time: 118 minutes




        Knight of Cups is less ambitious than Terrence Malick’s notoriously enigmatic Tree of Life, but somehow contains even less narrative and presents it even more ambiguously. The legendary director’s films have always been distinguished with dreamlike visual qualities, though his narratives are drifting further from structure as the years go by. While some remain dedicated fans of this experimental and improvisational style of filmmaking, others often remark that his freestyle methods have almost become a parody of what was once praised about the director. I find myself somewhere in-between, able to appreciate the braveness of his style while wishing that it were paired with a less noncommittal narrative.

The Brothers Grimsby Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Isla Fisher, Gabourey Sidibe, Rebel Wilson, Mark Strong, Barkhad Abdi
  • Director: Louis Leterrier
  • Producers: Sacha Baron Cohen, Nira Park, Peter Baynham, Todd Schulman, Ant Hines
  • Format: Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, English, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Audio Description: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    R
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: June 21, 2016
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: December 31, 2019
  • Run Time: 83 minutes




        Sacha Baron Cohen’s original three characters from “Da Ali G Show,” and their subsequent individual theatrical films, were highlighted by their ability to shock in a way that was simultaneously amusing and intelligently satirical. While his latest endeavor, The Brothers Grimsby, certainly lives up to the shock value, it is done for mindless puerile amusement rather than social commentary. While this may provide a few chuckles for an evening’s entertainment, The Brothers Grimsby has more to say about the spy film genre than any real-world issues. Although there are a few jokes about gun violence which could be construed as relevant, the silliness overpowers any commentary. On the other hand, he does use the film to give Donald Trump aids, which should count for something.

Every Thing Will Be Fine Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: James Franco, Rachel McAdams
  • Director: Wim Wenders
  • Format: Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Unrated
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • Release Date: June 7, 2016
  • Run Time: 118 minutes




        Despite the familiarity of the plot in Every Thing Will Be Fine, it manages to rustle up a few unique and compelling themes. Unfortunately, these are ideas which remain always on the cusp of the narrative, hinted at and briefly mentioned rather than delved into the way that audiences may desire. Director Wim Wenders instead invests most efforts into the visual style, attempting to bring audiences into the mind of the protagonist with the use of 3D photography. While we may at times feel as though we exist in the same world as its characters, rarely do we understand what they are thinking or feeling, and this is a glaring shortcoming of the film’s screenplay. Performances which could have been heartbreaking are instead enigmatic, and suddenly the visual effort is all for naught.

The Other Side of the Door Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Sarah Wayne Callies, Jeremy Sisto
  • Director: Johannes Roberts
  • Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Surround)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    R
  • Studio: 20TH CENTURY FOX
  • Release Date: June 7, 2016
  • Run Time: 96 minutes
  •        

     The setting may be somewhat unique, but don’t let that fool you. This horror film has been done many times before. The narrative alone shares themes similar to countless other movies, most notably the classic Pet Cemetery, but even more derivative are the stylistic choices made by director Johannes Roberts. It isn’t so much that this is a bad film. In fact, many of the sequences are effectively eerie. The problem is that they all have been done before. The ghost-like woman apparition threatening to come from the afterlife looks and moves remarkably similar to the TV-dwelling spirit from The Ring franchise, while other imagery from Japanese ghost narratives such as Ju-on (remade as The Grudge) are also peppered throughout the familiar storyline. Production elements are on point, but The Other Side of the Door would be far more effective if I was unfamiliar with previous releases in the ghost story subgenre. 

Under the Sun of Satan Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Gérard Depardieu, Sandrine Bonnaire, Alain Artur
  • Director: Maurice Pialat
  • Format: NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    Unrated
  • Studio: Cohen Media Group
  • Release Date: June 14, 2016
  • Run Time: 98 minutes


        Faith is a difficult concept to convey cinematically, even with the use of dialogue as primary tool of discussion. While there are scenes in which the characters have a conversation about religion and life-purpose, Under the Sun of Satan approaches most ideas through character action, making for a straightforward but often ambiguous viewing experience. Perhaps due to my inability to relate to the flawed individuals within the film, or a difficulty in conveying the material adapted from the work of Georges Bernanos, I find the viewing experience of Under the Sun of Satan to be far more intellectual than emotional. Director Maurice Pialat worked as a painter prior to becoming a filmmaker, and at times it feels as though he expects his audience to approach this film as they would a work of art hanging in a museum.

Eddie the Eagle Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman
  • Director: Dexter Fletcher
  • Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Surround)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: 
    PG
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • Release Date: June 14, 2016
  • Run Time: 106 minutes



        As is often the case with films based on true stories, much was altered for the cinematic story of courageously inexperienced British ski-jumper, Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards. Characters were added, events were changed, timelines were skewed, and in some cases the facts were more outlandish than the fictional screenplay by Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton. While one can’t help but wonder what a darker and more accurate version of this story may have looked like onscreen, Eddie the Eagle easily wins over audiences with a charming spirit and a pair of magnetic performances. Sometimes a crowd pleasing feel-good movie is more desirable, especially in the cynical times we live in.

Get a Job Blu-ray Review

     Actors: Miles Teller, Bryan Cranston, Anna Kendrick, Alison Brie, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
  • Director: Dylan Kidd
  • Format: NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R                    
  • Studio: LIONSGATE
  • Release Date: June 14, 2016
  • Run Time: 93 minutes



  •         Millennials have been called the “entitled generation,” carrying an air of arrogance and expectation without the benefit of experience or hard work to back it up, and Get a Job is a cinematic enabler for this infantile mentality. While it does address the egotism of modern college graduates, the sycophantic screenplay from first-time writers Kyle Pennekamp and Scott Turpel attempts to lay blame on the encouraging way that this generation was raised, as though their shitty attitude were the fault of supportive parents and participation trophies. But rather than following through with this cynical game of finger-pointing to some actual social commentary, these amateur screenwriters lazily resort to resolve it with a mindless young adult wish-fulfillment fantasy. This movie is utter garbage, made even worse by the talent that was wasted to make it.
     

    Jarhead 3: The Siege Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Scott Adkins, Charlie Weber, Dante Basco, Romeo Miller, Erik Valdez
  • Director: Will Kaufman
  • Writer: Michael Weiss
  • Producers: Jeffery Beach, Phillip Roth
  • Format: Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (DTS 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (DTS 5.1)
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish, English
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: Not Rated
  • Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: June 7, 2016
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: May 2, 2018



  •         Jarhead, the 2005 war film from director Sam Mendes, is an unlikely movie to build a franchise from. The reception was mediocre, the action was nonexistent as intentional commentary on the state of modern warfare, and there was little opportunity for significant characters to return. Thematically, the sequels don’t even belong in the same category, much less carrying the same title. They get away with this by carrying over a supporting character and turning the franchise into mindless action. While it may not be cut from the same cloth as Jarhead, it is rather predictable for a straight-to-video sequel.  
     

    Alaskan Bush People: The Complete Seasons 1&2 DVD Review

    Actors: Billy Brown, Gabe Brown, Noah Brown, Ami Brown, Bam Bam Brown
  • Details: Box set, Color NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Studio: LIONSGATE
  • DVD Release Date: June 14, 2016
  • Run Time: 450 minutes



  •         When the Discovery Channel reality series “Alaskan Bush People” first aired on television, many viewers were skeptical of the authenticity. Some theorized that the family claiming to have lived in the wild for the last 30 years was merely a group of actors, while others simply didn’t believe the outrageous claims of survival that they made to the cameras. Personally, I am hesitant to believe anything in reality television isn’t at least somewhat contrived. Although I have no reason to believe that this family isn’t related, I also have little faith that many of the situations in the show aren’t staged to a certain degree. Even in the trivia section of the series on IMDB.com, the episodes are referred to as “reenactments” of events taken from Billy Brown’s book. It automatically raises a red flag when the man claiming to want nothing from civilization has promoted himself through the publication of books. Others have found YouTube channels and other websites with other members of the family also trying to increase their fame.
     

    Kill Your Friends Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Nicholas Hoult, James Corden, Ed Skrein
  • Director: Owen Harris
  • Format: Dolby, NTSC, THX, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Studio: Well Go USA
  • Release Date: June 7, 2016
  • Run Time: 103 minutes




  •         Kill Your Friends is not outrageous enough in its violence or dark enough in its tone to give the satire of the novel it is based on enough edge, despite the screenplay being written by author John Niven. Worse yet, comparisons are bound to be made with American Psycho, which still feels more groundbreaking despite being made 16 years earlier than this film. Had director Owen Harris taken this narrative in another direction, it may have avoided the comparisons that the material obviously had no chance to live up to, but instead much of the violence ends up feeling more perfunctory than shocking. There is potential amongst the differences for some uniquely scathing commentary, but Kill Your Friends instead unwisely focuses on the most derivative elements of the narrative.
     

    The Confirmation Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Clive Owen, Jaeden Lieberher, Maria Bello, Robert Forster, Tim Blake Nelson
  • Director: Bob Nelson
  • Format: NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13             
  • Studio: LIONSGATE
  • Release Date: June 7, 2016
  • Run Time: 83 minutes



  •         Much of the narrative in The Confirmation has been done previously, and occasionally with far more dedication to realism (there are moments which bring to mind Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves), but it is in the optimistic tone and engaging performances that this film finds its stride. Like the Oscar nominated film, Nebraska, which first-time director Bob Nelson wrote the screenplay for, The Confirmation is often equally hilarious and heartbreaking. Nelson understands as a filmmaker that these two things need not be mutually exclusive, which grounds the film without drowning audiences in cynicism and sadness. Some may find the resolution a bit too neat (especially those expecting the Bicycle Thieves similarities to play out), and others may find the film’s morality a bit too flippant. This is a balancing act between two extremes, likely to leave both sides slightly unsatisfied, while neither outright disappointed. A few more risks in the narrative may have solved this problem, or it could have brought the entire house of cards tumbling down.
     

    Touched with Fire Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Katie Holmes, Luke Kirby, Christine Lahti, Griffin Dunne
  • Director: Paul Dalio
  • Format: AC-3, DTS Surround Sound, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R                  
  • Studio: LIONSGATE
  • Release Date: June 7, 2016
  • Run Time: 110 minutes


  •         While I appreciated the discussion of mental illness and its connection to artistic creativity within the narrative Touched with Fire, at times the individual scenarios of the specific plot overshadow the larger topic. Writer/director Paul Dalio based the film on his own experiences, and while this brings honesty to the material, it often also runs the risk of carrying romanticized bias of personal memory. In this case, some distance from the content may have helped to create a stronger film. Despite compellingly convincing performances from the lead actors, Dalio’s narrative often feels aimless at best, and predictably melodramatic at its worst.
     

    Vinyl: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review

  • Director: Martin Scorsese
  • Format: Box set, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 4
  • Studio: Hbo Home Video
  • Release Date: June 7, 2016
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: December 31, 2021










  •         “Vinyl” is a show that seemed destined for greatness, built upon a foundation of elements that should have all led to guaranteed success: Martin Scorsese returning to HBO as producer of the series (and director of the pilot), a collaboration with Mick Jagger as a legendary rocker with unique insight into the industry and time period, and a premise approaching the 1970s music industry in a manner similar to the way “Mad Men” tackled the advertising business in the 1960s. With the constantly shifting landscape of rock during this decade, it seems like a show that should have written itself. There should have been a plethora of material for the first season of “Vinyl,” but instead we end up with a repetitive character study centering on the endlessly flawed protagonist.

    Extra Confessional: An Atypical Hail, Caesar! Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill
  • Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (DTS 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (DTS 5.1)
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: PG-13 Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: June 7, 2016
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: May 2, 2018




  •         I regularly lecture my students on the significance of Audience Reception Theory in our interpretation of each film we watch, though I found myself a student of this very lesson while watching Hail, Caesar!, with the Joel and Ethan Coen as my (presumably) unwitting professors. This film theory essentially argues that each viewer’s interpretation of art will be affected by their own background and person experiences. In the plainest sense, this means that viewers of Hail, Caesar! with previous experience viewing classics from the golden age of cinema are more likely to appreciate the references to Esther Williams, Gene Kelly, Carmen Miranda, among others. But the latest Coen brothers film took on additional significance for me, having had the experience of being on set while it was filmed.

    In a Lonely Place Blu-ray Review

         Actors: Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame, Frank Lovejoy
  • Director: Nicholas Ray
  • Format: Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Not Rated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • Release Date: May 10, 2016
  • Run Time: 93 minutes





  •         Despite being adapted from a novel by Dorothy B. Hughes, In a Lonely Place says more about the director and stars than it does the author of the source material. Films about Hollywood have this tendency of bringing out the honesty from filmmakers who understand the cynicism of the text better than most, and beneath the violent noir narrative are raw performances and parallels with real life events. Bleak as the film may be, it also offers audiences one of the more unadulterated perspectives of the industry from those who knew it best. Nearly 70-years later and In a Lonely Place remains one of the most accurate depictions of the battle between art and commerce, reputation and reality, and the way that Hollywood often confuses them for each other.