On DVD & Blu-Ray: November 12, 2013

To first put my perspective of Superman in check would be to inform you of what I've seen before. There are of course the first two Christopher Reeve movies (I skipped out on III and IV simply because I've heard nothing but terrible things) from which I moved onto Bryan Singer's 2006 Superman Returns. I enjoyed the romanticism and meditation of that film despite it now being panned by pretty much any fan boy you talk to. I've never seen an episode of "Smallville" and sans for a couple of animated features my knowledge of the DC mainstay is somewhat limited. Thus it was with great anticipation that I looked forward to a new vision, a re-booted film interpretation in line with Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy that has defined the space that films based on DC comics characters will occupy in this Marvel world. Personally, and as much as I enjoy the Marvel movies, I was more intrigued and engaged by the bleak and more serious moods that hung over the Nolan films as they were appropriate to the central characters tone. Though I was slightly concerned with this same tone not applying to the guy commonly referred to as the ultimate boy scout it seems that persona was not always true and director Zack Snyder along with Nolan as a producer and David Goyer (who also penned the screenplay for Batman Begins) have adapted the Superman story to not only exist in a similar universe with Nolan's Batman films, but within his own, more realistic world that doesn't simply pit the classic superhero against a bad guy in order to champion truth, justice and the American way. What they have done here and what makes me appreciate the film all the more is that while keeping in step with the kind of movies Nolan has made DC can now attempt a Justice League movie in the with Man of Steel as a damn good place to start. That it doesn't limit itself to that same completely realistic world of what we know because Superman is an alien is a plus and shows how well the worlds of science and mythology might be melded.  With that que Snyder and crew ask the question of what would happen in a real world setting if Superman were to show up. It is that basic set-up that guides the film throughout and, despite a few flaws, had me gushing with excitement for what we now know will come next. Full review here. A

Turbo is a completely complacent piece of entertainment. There isn't anything particularly intriguing about the film and there is absolutely nothing that might offend or cause someone not to enjoy it. In fact, the viewing experience I had was one of initially low expectations that were met with a sense of pure ease and joy that radiated off the screen and into the creative juices the film had flowing allowing for it all to be very colorful, very fun, but most importantly, entertaining. It held the children's attention, it never slowed for too long and it didn't take any detours in getting where it wanted to go. There is a very basic, straightforward plot, a message that is easy to understand and characters that are completely endearing while being both supporters and detractors to our titular heroes dreams. It is tough to come up with much to say about a film so middle of the road that you find neither anything spectacular to love about it or insulting enough to hate. I guess there could be some magic in that, in the fact that parents can take their kids to the movies and have a fun enough time themselves while not having to worry about whether or not the kids will actually stay in their seats and remain entertained, but as far as quality of the overall film goes, whether it has anything profound to say or not, or whether it will stand as a classic of the genre it fits so comfortably into, that is where the film fails to meet any real standards. Still, the fact of the matter is the makers of Turbo likely weren't shooting for any such standards, but instead had the humble aspirations of making a fun, entertaining ride with a positive message that informed kids no matter how small they are that their big dreams were worth going after and could indeed be accomplished. I applauded Monsters University earlier this year for taking the road less traveled in preaching life lessons to its young audiences, but Turbo chooses to go the road most traveled in pretty much every aspect. I liked Turbo well enough and I'm sure plenty of kiddos will see it and feel the same way, but I doubt any of them will take much away from it. Full review here. C+

Frances Ha is all about growing up and in every sense of that phrase I feel like I can relate to what is taking place in this film. Given, I don’t live in New York and am not currently struggling to pay rent I can still understand coming to the point where the present is being forced to become more like the past and the aspirations you’ve had since childhood are approaching do or die time. It is a scary period in life where you truly believe you are determining what the rest of your life will be like and sometimes the prospects of that aren’t exactly on the positive side of things. Whether or not this turns out to be true or not is both unknowable to myself and Frances and the film does a fine job of conveying her anxiousness in not knowing where she will end up. She is yearning to know if her reality will meet her goals, but the constant fear of that not happening looms over her day to day life. It is something that is only escalated by the apparent ease with which all of her friends are dealing with this process. This also leads to the film unearthing something more than these typical issues of trying to find one’s self and carve out a place in the world, but creates a layer of having to deal with relationships and the growth of friendship even if that means you are growing apart. The film deals specifically with that kind of relationship between girlfriends who view one another as family and that point in time where they have to essentially break up from constantly hanging out with one another and find themselves in relationships with guys that might eventually produce their own families. When one friend begins to make this transition and the other doesn’t it creates an awkward situation for the latter friend to fall into. That is where we find Greta Gerwig’s Frances as the film eases us into her predicament and gives us a lovely and quirky little slice of life that is just as charming and authentic as the titular character. Full review here. B

There are several factors Prince Avalanche inherently has going for it when it comes to my humble opinion. First off would be the fact that it offers the chance to see Paul Rudd, a comedian I could watch do pretty much anything, in a much smaller film and in a more restrained role with more to him than that of the everyman smart ass type he's fallen into over the past few years. Second would be that it is directed by David Gordon Green, a Little Rock native, and someone who has an eclectic resume to say the least. I mention Green's hometown only because we get very few directors who rise to prominence from my neck of the woods and so it is a real treat to see them doing so well and being received positively in the harsh environment of Hollywood filmmaking. What Prince Avalanche represents though is anything but the Hollywood system. This is a minor film with a big heart and one that doesn't attempt to solve the worlds problems, but instead simply asks its characters to figure out who they want to be and what they need to do at this point in their lives to make that happen. Green first became known for his smaller films such as George Washington and All the Real Girls, though the only one of his early efforts I've seen is Snow Angels, featuring a wonderful performance from Sam Rockwell and a turn from Kate Beckinsale that shows she truly can act. Snow Angels is a very serious film and so it came as a surprise when Green decided to follow it up by joining the Apatow production family and partnering with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg for Pineapple Express. While Express is a minor stoner comedy classic, Green tripped up on his next broad comedy outings with Your Highness and The Sitter. All of this is to say that Green has finally provided himself the opportunity to mesh both of the genres he's worked in before and in melding these two tones into a small, quirky film he has produced something that is not only oddly hilarious, but also something highly potent with characters that get inside your soul and make you smile. Full review here. B-

I enjoy watching documentaries, much the same way I enjoy catching an episode of 48 Hours or 20/20 on CBS or ABC, but they aren't necessarily pieces of work that demand my attention the way feature films typically do. That may or may not speak negatively of me (coming from the angle I place more importance on fictitious works of art than art that is meant inspire change), but I still find documentaries and the stories chosen to be highlighted in a good number of them worth watching and in turn they usually deliver an interesting if not necessarily entertaining time. Last year, Searching For Sugar Man made my top ten list for my favorite films of the year and though I sat down to watch Blackfish with much anticipation I knew not to expect something that would rock my world as much as that unexpected doc had. Though this has clearly been the hot topic doc of the year so far I had yet to find an opportunity to venture out and see it as it only played for a week at my local indie theater, but when I saw it was airing last week on CNN it seemed a most opportune time to see what all the fuss was about and also be able to have this full review up in time for its release on DVD & Blu-Ray today. Needless to say, Blackfish is a fascinating film that wraps you up from moment one with a veil of mystery and intrigue that is sustained throughout the brisk 82-minute runtime and draws some pretty unavoidable conclusions on plenty of solid evidence that will have you wanting to pick up your picket signs and head for the nearest Seaworld. That isn't to say there aren't two sides to every story, but the case seems pretty open and shut here with only our ignorance and the way of life we've been conditioned to enjoy stopping us from seeing the truth here. The film isn't as revelatory as I expected it to be, but it is rather shocking in just how solid of a case it builds adding the mystery element only to serve as a storytelling tool that intrigues the audience and then hits us with incident after incident to hammer home the overarching goal of the film. Still, if the point of a documentary is to provide a factual record or report on the given subject then Blackfish has more than done its job to great effect. Full review here. B

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