On DVD & Blu-Ray: August 6, 2013

From its extended opening shot that is captured in one take it is clear The Place Beyond the Pines is looking for something extra, something more than what most films shoot for. As the follow-up to Derek Cianfrance's 2010 critical success, Blue Valentine, this film also serves as a very serious, very woeful piece that expands on the world around the people involved in the story rather than being as focused as his previous film. This is still an examination of human relationships in many ways, but instead of being purely based around the singular subject of a relationship and how something as personal as that falls apart when placed on the shoulders of a particular couple The Place Beyond the Pines is a sprawling epic, a generational story that touches on the legacy you leave and ultimately have limited control over. I was a fan of Blue Valentine and the way Cianfrance allowed his characters to take the story wherever felt natural, but I've become an even bigger fan with this film as the director shows a consistency in his style and ability to tell a powerful story while being diverse enough to approach it from a different angle. I knew I was looking forward to this film simply due to the fact it was Cianfrance's follow-up and he would likely get a little more support in making the film, but also because he was re-teaming with Ryan Gosling while enlisting the only other actor that could equal Gosling's stature at the moment with Bradley Cooper. There is a fantastic supporting cast here as well, but to see two popular poster boy actors with the ability and talent to pull off what they have done here gives a refreshing sense of optimism about where the movies are heading. The Place Beyond the Pines is a dour, brooding piece of work that will hit you in the gut and keep you yearning for more. It is close to a masterwork, but falls just short one time too many. Full review here. A

It takes a while for Oblivion to get going and therefore might lose some of its audience before it really digs into why it's worth sticking around for. I am generally a fan of both science fiction and anything Tom Cruise decides to do and so to have them both served up in a single film that looked to be as gorgeous as this did while paired with a story seemingly ripe with mystery and intrigue from the mind of the director which could only mean a good amount of passion was applied, was rather exciting. My first thought as the credits began to roll though was not how incredibly beautiful the film was (which it is) or how solid the performance of Cruise was (reminiscent of a young Maverick even) but instead I couldn't help but wonder what exactly the film was trying to say or what any of it meant. Was this a simple minded sci-fi flick that had style first with substance a distant second or were all the twists, turns and intended surprises truly trying to say something? I couldn't decide and I wasn't sure I even understood all of what went on in the film. I assumed a few things and talked out a few other plot points I needed clarified on the ride home, but never did I feel fully satisfied with the story or that the filmmakers even had as much of a handle on it as they'd like to have us think. A clear vision for the world it would take place in? Sure. A wonderful musical score that somewhat rips off Daft Punk's from director Joseph Kosinski previous (and debut) feature, Tron: Legacy? Yea, but I was good with it. Still, the story seemed to come in last here; cobbled together from several different influences of the same genre and hoping to pass for something as fresh and new as the look of the film, Oblivion failed to live up to my expectations. Don't get me wrong, it is a fine enough film and is rather entertaining if you give it a chance, but it certainly isn't all it could have been. Full review hereC+

Though my opinion might be slightly biased as director Jeff Nichols is from my hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas and is certainly the most prominent filmmaker to come out of here in quite some time it is also nice to see the south receive authentic representation in a film that receives wide, and mostly positive recognition. This isn't Nichols first foray into depicting the south in all its bare normality's and simplicities though as he's ventured here twice before in 2007's deadly family feud drama Shotgun Stories and 2011's Take Shelter that perfectly encapsulated the inner demons and slow unraveling of the human psyche. In his latest, Mud, Nichols has kept his location the same as he is able to so naturally create a sense of place and that is key here as our two young protagonists live on and off of the river that guides them to an island where they meet the titular character. The atmosphere and the way in which Nichols crafts his story lend an almost mythical quality to the tone. It is as if this could just have easily been a southern fable that parents told their children at night so as to keep them from wandering where they aren't supposed to go. Still, even with these vibes of a folk legend the film is able to say and do so much more than simply teach a moral lesson. I expected the slow pace, the southern setting, and the bigger implications the story might make other than what is on the surface, but what continues to surprise is the renaissance of a period that Matthew McConaughey is having in his career at the moment. All of the performances here are strong and Nichols has rounded up a solid cast, especially in his two young stars, but it is McConaughey's turn as the title character that will have you thinking about the film long after the credits roll and what he stood for, what he wanted from life, and most inconspicuously, who he really was. Full review here. A-

If The Tree of Life, or any of Terrence Malick's films before that, were a novels worth of ideas and imagery put to film than his latest, To the Wonder, feels more akin to an essay. Shot in what is essentially the exact same, and very recognizable style with which he shot his aforementioned previous film Malick again collaborates with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki; the pair have concocted a style that allows for the unconventional way in which Malick chooses to make movies all the more poetic. The flowing shots of actors conveying the emotions and tones needed to imply the drama of the story Malick is attempting to tell is always beautiful and though I could feel I sometimes sensed the confusion on the part of the actors (especially Ben Affleck) as they are more times than not able to materialize the emotions and moments that Malick is so desperately trying to capture in their most honest state. If you know anything about the elusive director than you automatically know his films aren't for everyone and despite his output increasing over the past few years (and in the near future) he continues to stray further and further from convention. This is not a bad thing, not in my humble opinion anyway, despite the fact I wasn't completely enthralled with this film as I was The Tree of Life. Still, there is something about the depressing love story at the center of To the Wonder that also makes the film an effervescent experience and one that is unequaled by anything else you will see at the movies this year. Is the lack of structure and normalcy all that makes the film different and likely unappealing to many though? The answer is an easy no. To the Wonder literally paints a portrait of love and loss in a way anyone who has experienced either emotion would certainly be able to understand if they are willing to pay attention. Memories are what make life worth living and Malick draws on those moments to create what may not make sense as you watch it, but leaves you with feelings and thoughts that are hard to shake. Full review here. B-

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