On DVD & Blu-Ray: February 25, 2014

There is much more to be said for a film such as Gravity, a film that reminds us why we go to the movies in the first place, a film that demands to be seen on the biggest screen possible and pushes visual storytelling to a completely different level as it accomplishes a complex sense of filmmaking not often witnessed. Still, it is impossible to encompass the true impact of this film in words for they do nothing but diminish the visceral sense you receive as you sit in wonder and experience what it might be like to float hundreds of miles above the earth and realize your minuscule role in the existence of the human race or even the universe. While it helps us consider ideas of accepting our situation, giving up in moments of true despair, facing fears and overcoming obstacles it coaxes us into the understanding that it is in these moments our true character is defined by how we decide to deal with them. These evaluations of human nature and the bigger psychological ideals the film imposes lend that unexpected weight that I didn't completely see coming while facets such as Steven Price's score and Emmanuel Lubezki's cinematography only help to enhance the visual and emotional roller coaster the film takes us on. Gravity is something not easily defined as you can lump it into several genres such as science fiction, thriller, or drama but in the end, like Sandra Bullock's lead protagonist, the film transcends these categorical limits and becomes nothing short of an experience we will continue to reference, continue to think about and consider when we, if we're lucky, are able to define who we truly are and why we are necessary in this big, big world. Full review here. A+

In episode two of the Marvel adventures from 2013 we were given the extended look at what was easily the riskiest piece of completing The Avengers. Thor is by and large a fantasy character with a fair amount of fun to offer and fortunately director Kenneth Branagh was able to elicit those shining qualities the first time around to assemble a Thor film that while not necessarily overly impressive offered a fine enough preliminary set-up for the Norse God that was able to find just the right tone to make him credible rather than the goofy, over-indulgent mess it could have easily turned into. I credited much of the success of things being done the best way they could on 2011's Thor to director Branagh and a cast that was more than capable of delivering lines about bifrösts and frost giants with Shakespearean prestige. All of this is still in tact in the much grander, more expensive and thankfully more ambitious sequel, but with Branagh being replaced by Game of Thrones-helmer Alan Taylor I again had concerns. While I am completely enthralled with seeing films overlap and build on one another we have now reached a point in our culture where we are taking in these films with such rapid consumption that we don't give them the individual focus they sometimes deserve. We are excited to see Iron Man or Thor back on screen again, but more than that we are looking forward to what will come next that the current film might hint at. The reason this has become a problem is that while these are still trying to be individual stories there isn't enough of a connection from film to film besides short mentions or familiar character pop-ups. That and the fact these films aren't willing to commit to any tragedy allow the audience no real surprise. Director Taylor and his film are not to blame for this issue as Thor: The Dark World is a more than worthy sequel and is generally a lot of fun to watch, but it also doesn't do much more than add evidence to the pile that Marvel is content with quantity over quality. Full review here. B-

Naturally, the most involving stories are those we usually relate to best. I personally love a good comedy but the consequences most characters face in those films are unrealistic. I can enjoy a horror flick without actually becoming wrapped up in the mythology of what the film justifies its actions with or convincing myself it is real and an actual possibility in this world. The same goes with science fiction and over-the-top action movies. Sure, I love Star Wars and have become enamored with the barrage of comic book films we’re hit with every year, but I like to think of myself as a diverse viewer in the fact that while I can enjoy even the mainstream genre films that big studios deem worthy of their big budgets it is perfectly acceptable to understand why the smaller, indie movies that typically end up on critics end of year lists are just as enticing and deserve to be taken on their own terms for the point in which they were made and what ideas they were looking to explore and fulfill (just as those bigger budget ones). All of that to say that when something like Nebraska comes along it is easy to take it for granted, but in reality this is a film that captures all of the complexities of life in as simple a package as our day to day lives actually feel. As told by director Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants) it was clear that this very human story would have a very personal tone to its proceedings, but Nebraska is surprisingly insightful not only for the dynamics between the family members and the core relationship between the father and son that examines big questions in small ways, but because it is, like its main character, so matter of fact about these big ideas. There is nothing overly exceptional about the film, but that too is due to the fact it dials down its philosophical and nostalgic questions that delve into the choices we make and how they affect our happiness, how we don't always think them through in the moment and how they may, in the long run, determine more than just the quality of life but our satisfaction with it. Full review here. B

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