The Back To School Movie Blu-Ray and DVD September Hub
This is the latest overdue batch of reviews that includes some really excellent choices for Picks of the Month and plenty of solid television shows to choose from!
Aloha (**) Sony/1 Hour 58 Minutes/PG-13 This Cameron Crowe box office dud isn't as bad as critics made it out to be with a fine cast including Oscar nominees Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Bill Murray, Alec Baldwin and Rachel McAdams taking place in Hawaii as Cooper plays an independent contractor assigned by the military to the sunny island under the guidance of Ng (Stone) an Air Force Pilot over a top secret project that is run by Murray. Cooper also has to pine over his ex (McAdams) who is happily married to an Air Force pilot (John Krasinski of The Office) with two kids and soon stars to fall in love with Ng while issues abound with the project itself that may hold some serious implications. The film is slow and doesn't have the energy of Crowe's great films like Say Anything, Jerry Maguire and Singles to name a few, but it shouldn't be dismissed entirely. Worth a look for it's talented cast.
Love & Mercy (***) Lionsgate/2 Hours 2 Minutes/PG-13 Very solid bio-pic based on the life of Beach Boys singer Brian Wilson played exceptionally well by Paul Dano (his younger self) and by John Cusack (in his current years) that revolves around the power and control that Wilson was by his Doctor (Paul Giamatti, in a solid performance) and finally lured away by him by his future wife (Elizabeth Banks) into living a normal life again. The film is a harrowing portait that deserved a little more attention than it got and the studio is really at fault here for it. Very solid and worth seeing.
The Age of Adeline (***) Lionsgate/1 Hour 53 Minutes/PG-13 Nice and solid romantic drama starring Blake Lively as a woman named Adeline, who survives death at the age of 29 and not aged since her near death experience living her life as quietly and guarding her secret away from anyone who tries to get close to her for decades. Then she meets a philantropist (Michael Hausman), who she immediately has an attraction too and then encounters her father (Harrison Ford, in a solid performance), who (spoiler alert) may have had a relationship with Adeline way back when and soon she has to confront both her secret and her true feelings. The film is charming and entertaining with Lively giving a fine performance but it's Ford who really steals the show here and unfortunately for the film, he appears well half way into it around the hour mark which is a shame. A little more of Ford would've pushed this film to another level, but despite this it's a nice film for romantics.
Runner (**) Alchemy/1 Hour 30 Minutes/PG-13 Weak drama featuring one of Nicolas Cage's best and most restrained performances in years here playing a Lousiana Congressman who's life is completely destroyed after the BP oil spill that occurred in the Gulf a decade ago that captivated the nation. Despite a good supporting cast including the underrated Connie Nielsen, Peter Fonda and American Hotel Story's Sarah Paulsen, they cannot rescue this one note drama despite Cage's charamistic efforts.
The D-Train (**1/2)/Paramount/1 Hour 41 Minutes/R At times charming, at times annoying comedy about a straight arrow and cheerful head of a High School Reunion committee (Jack Black in one of his best non annoying performances in ages) who decides to travel to LA to seek out a former classmate who was really popular (James Marsden) in hopes to convince him to make his high school reunion a big success and gaining the attention that he never got in high school. The film is breezy but it's too breezy for it's own good and that's why it should've been better than it is. Black and Marsden are really good here along with the supporting characters, but if it was just a little bit tighter, it would've made a world of difference. Still worth seeing for them alone.
Good Kill (***)/Paramount/1 Hour 43 Minutes/R Oscar nominee Ethan Hawke reunites with writer/director Andrew Niccol ("Lord of War") for this intriguing drama about a Las Vegas former fighter pilot now manning military drones attacking the middle east for half a day while his life is filled with constant fighting with his wife (January Jones of Mad Men) and kids and starts to question both his own sanity and state of being as to why his doing what he's doing and the purpose that it serves. The film is very intriguing and asks alot of questions in regards to the lives of these drone fighters who no longer fly planes but robots to destroy their targets and the long term effects. The film really is too short to really dig deeper into it but it works because of Niccol's direction and Hawke's performance as a disllusioned soldier.
Unexpected (***)/Alchemy/1 Hour 25 Minutes/PG-13 Nice solid film starring The Avengers' Colbie Smulders as an inner city high school teacher who finds out that she is pregnant as the same time as a one of her students. Despite their cultural differences, the two form a strong bond together as they each go through the pains of nurturing their future children. The film is a showcase primarily for Smulders who coming off How I Met Your Mother, has been more of a background characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and nothing else and clearly she has a presence that is both likeable and engaging. This film is definitely worth seeking out for her performance alone.
Boulevard (**) Anchor Bay/1 Hour 36 Minutes/R This is the very last film that starred Oscar Winner Robin Williams in one of his best and last performances in Dito Montiel's otherwise depressing and sad story about a man (Williams) who despite being happily married to Kathy Baker ("Clean & Sober", "Street Smart") picks up a young man on Hollywood Blvd and soon becomes even more personally conflicted about his own sexuality. The film is definitely not Montiel's best moments as a director but getting a solid performance by Williams is the only reason to watch this film and only for that reason alone. It's a film that a feel of the late 80's and 90's when this subject had more teeth and now, it really doesn't.
Return To Sender (**1/2)/ Alchemy/2015/1 Hour 30 Minutes Intriguing rape thriller starring Oscar nominee Rosamund Pike who is really the reason to see this film (in her pre-Gone Girl performance) as a Nurse trying to be a surgeon who is brutally raped by a sociopath (Shiloh Fernandez) in her own house. Soon her career path is derailed and she's having a tough time trying to get her life together with the help of her kindly father (Nick Nolte). She starts to hatch a vicious and brutal plan of revenge for him as she visits him in jail and writes him love letters leading a surprising conclusion. The film works but the ending is so abrupt that it feels as if something was left on the cutting room floor which is a shame this film has cult hit written all over it.
Checkmate (**1/2)/Alchemy/2015/1 Hour 27 Minutes Another intriguing film that is tightly edited and wound up featuring a game cast including Danny Glover, Vinnie Jones, Mischa Barton and Sean Astin amongst others as a group of interesting people converge around a bank during the middle of a robbery in broad daylight which intersect with one another while two gangsters (Glover and Jones) play a seemingly innocent game of chess with serious implications for everyone involved. Brief and entertaining thriller that is a pretty good on demand rental.
Vendetta (***)/Lionsgate/2015/1 Hour 35 Minutes Pretty decent action-thriller directed by the Soska sisters, Jen and Sylvia starring Dean Cain as a hard nosed detective Danvers on the trail of a vicious serial killer named Abbott (WWE's Paul Wight aka. Big Show) and finally catches him only to find out that his wife is amongst the trail of murders. Soon he hatches a plan to get himself thrown in prison to finish off Abbott once and for all, but he soon learns the hard way that when you're in prison, there are no rules and in particular to Abbott's own particular cravings of death. The film is slick and entertaining for what it is much like the Soska sisters' other films. For fans of hard core action for sure.
TV Shows On DVD
CSI: New Orleans/CBS/Paramount/3 Discs/959 Minutes The latest spinoff based on the hit original series CSI featuring Scott Bakula and Fast And The Furious' Lucas Black set in the Big Easy as this motley crue of detectives solve crimes in the heat of Louisiana.
CSI: Los Angeles Season 6/CBS/Paramount/5 Discs/1027 Minutes The second spin off of the hit original series also returns on DVD for it's sixth season with Chris O'Donnell and LL Cool J continuing the hit tradition of both CSI and CSI: Miami as they continue to solve crimes of all types in the City of Angels.
The Good Wife Season 6/CBS/Paramount/5 Discs/956 Minutes The Emmy Award Winning series starring Julianna Margulies and Chris Noth amongst a very strong cast continues it's unpredictable and harrowing storylines making it a worthy addition to your collection.
NCIS The Complete 12th Season/CBS/Paramount/5 Discs/1030 Minutes The long running and exceptional series starring Mark Harmon, Pauley Perrette and Rocky Carroll chugs along very strongly in this new box set of the latest season of the great series as Harmon and company continue to solve crimes within the Navy and beyond.
Aquarius: The Complete First Season/Anchor Bay/4 Discs/546 Minutes Hit NBC series loosely based on what would become infamous serial killer Charles Manson's life story before his rampage of murders in Hollywood. The X-Files' David Duchovny stars as the detective on the trail trying to search for a missing girl from a wealthy family who has taken up with Manson when he was an aspiring musician with tons of charisma that women swooned over and eventually creating his cult group.
The Royals Season 1/Lionsgate/2015/3 Discs/450 Minutes Fictious account of a British Royal family in Modern Day England and the many power plays betrayals and many other things in the family's daily lives including on by the Queen (deliciously played by Elizabeth Hurley) as the King seeks to make changes throughout the land.
Texas Rising/Lionsgate/2015/2 Discs/450 Minutes History Channel Mini-series event that aired during Memorial Day that starred Bill Paxton, Ray Liotta, Brendan Fraser, Jeffery Dean Morgan, Olivier Martinez and Cynthia Addai Robinson is pretty much another version or retelling of the story of The Alamo, which has been told numerious times including two theatrical versions in 1960 starring the legendary John Wayne and the very underrated and underappreciated 2004 version starring Billy Bob Thornton and Dennis Quaid. A good cast here and solid visuals along with a rousing score by John Debney and Bruce Broughton make this a decent watch. I honestly prefer the films much better.
When Action Thrillers Don't Work
Big Game (**) Starz/Anchor Bay/1 Hour 30 Minutes Samuel L.Jackson stars in this meandering and really uninspired action-thriller in which he plays the President Of The United States is stranded in the woods after Air Force One after a missile attack over Finland. He is found by a young boy named Oskari who aides him in trying to get back civilization as hostile enemy forces are upon them. They pair bond as the boy goes through his transition from boy to man. The film is a disappointment in everyway despite a good cast which surprisingly took to this film. Jackson is just really slumming it up here and to be honest, has really overexposed himself as an actor and should really start concentrating on projects that matter not films like this. An unrated version is included here aside from the PG-13 version which doesn't make a huge difference either way.
7 Minutes (**)/Anchor Bay/2014/1 Hour 24 Minutes Limp action-thriller revolving a bank robbery and a bunch of desperate best friends that take a bet with a group of serious gangsters to rob a bank in seven minutes or less and becomes even more desperate when the robbery goes longer than planned putting the lives of the people inside the bank as well as their personal lives at serious risk. Limp is being kind. Good premise, bad execution throughout.
Chain of Command (**)/Lionsgate/2015/1 Hour 30 Minutes Another limp action thriller starring Spawn's Michael Jai White and WWE's Stone Cold Steve Austin. White, plays a former military operative Webster, who's come home to enjoy his retirement when his brother is brutally murdered. As it turns out, his slaying is only part of a conspiracy run by black government ops to lure Webster out of retirement and into a trap as the corrupt officials have sent their top assassin (Austin) to take him out before he discovers the truth. You've seen better from both of these guys and in particular Austin who's hamming it up here.
Picks of the Month
Mad Max Fury Road (****)/Warner Bros./2015/2 Hours Sensational, brilliant and seminal action-thriller that marks the well deserved return of one great characters of the cinema in Max Rockatansky originated by Oscar Winner Mel Gibson and now taken over by Tom Hardy, in the desolate Australian outback still grieving the death of his wife and newborn when he aids the escape of a group of women including Furiousa (Oscar Winner Charlize Theron) and the wives of a tryant named Immortan Joe, who are baring his own off-spring in a race to get to a promised land where they can live free. The film Directed by George Miller as he had helmed the original Mad Max trilogy, comes back to give us one of the years' best films filled with memorable stunts and excitement that is severely lacking in today's films.
10 To Midnight (***)/Twilight Time/1 Hour 42 Minutes/R One of Cannon Films' most successful and really underappreciated thrillers starring a hard nosed and sympathetic Charles Bronson as an LAPD detective Leo Kessler after a serial killer who murders young beautiful women and the clues point to a good looking but woman hating guy named Warren Stacy (Gene Davis in a solid performance) who murders his victims by stripping completely naked to leave no traces of any evidence during the murders he commits. Soon Kessler's daughter Laurie (the lovely Lisa Eilbacher of Beverly Hills Cop) and her Nursing school roommates including John Travolta's wife, Kelly Preston soon become targets when he learns that there is an incriminating diary documenting his motives for murder and Kessler himself goes above the law to catch him. This is a film that is a surprise entry in this special catalog and a good choice because it is one of Bronson's best films of the 80's and really has enjoyed a long shelf life for solid action-thrillers of this type.
Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday The 13th/Image Entertainment/2013/2 Discs/400 Minutes plus Sensational and surprisingly enjoyable documentary spanning over eight hours that really details the making of each of the Friday the 13th films featuring some really introspective interviews with former cast members, directors, producers and special guests that really give a very insightful look into the most popular horror movie franchise in history.
At Close Range (****)/Twilight Time/1986/1 Hour 55 Minutes/R Solid drama starring Oscar Winner Sean Penn and Christopher Walken and Directed by James Foley (Glengarry Glen Ross, Fear). Penn plays Brad Whitewood, Jr., a teen who is into petty theft along with his half brother (the late Chris Penn of Footloose) as he aspires to be like his criminal father, Brad Sr. (Walken) who is apart of a bigger con that involves big money and serious consequences that may jeopardize his relationship with both his family and his girlfriend (Mary Stuart Masterson) as Brad Jr. dreams of something bigger than his petty exsistance. The film is well directed and acted by Penn and Walken who really do play off each other quite brilliantly and is yet another solid choice by the label for films' that deserve good attention.