On DVD & Blu-Ray: March 11, 2014

It is always with a certain set of expectation that we approach the latest from Jason Statham. Usually, his name alone gives us a good indication as to what we're in for, but with his new film, Homefront, he breaks free of the slickly dressed, high-stakes city life many of his characters fit squarely into and decides to settle down into something akin to the quiet country life in small town Louisiana. Make no mistake, he still carries the badass history of a DEA agent that would frequently go undercover (we get a peak at this lifestyle in the opening scene of the film), but he is attempting to escape this world and thus is how we come to know his character, Phil Broker, which allows a different facade to the trope that Statham has inadvertently created for himself. This coupled with the fact he's not acting alone this time adds a level of intrigue and substance not seen in many of his recent, non-Expendable ventures. Not only do we have the chrome-domed action star heading things up, but a strong supporting cast including a hilariously ferocious James Franco, an impressive Kate Bosworth and Winona Ryder being utilized in just the right amount (with Omar Benson Miller thrown in for a dash of comedic relief) give more than enough reason for us to sit up and pay attention where we might normally feel we've seen this scenario one too many times before. It may simply be that the standard set of expectations were surpassed that allowed Homefront to leave a better impression, but there is that something special about this fun, throwback of an action flick that encapsulates pure, B-movie thrills with such expertise that it connects and delivers exactly what it promises while packing a little something extra in its punch. Full review here. B-

There is something both numbing and strangely profound about the second directorial effort from Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart). There is a menacing grim to the overall proceedings, yet it is almost impossible to not feel enlightened by what we see unfold on screen and by the development (or lack) of character and the insight that we gain as to why these people that Out of the Furnace zeroes in on are so compelling without being considered extraordinary. Where director Cooper and his cast excel are in how they don't decide to focus or rely as heavily on the events in which the story documents because in all honesty it feels that after about fifty or so minutes the narrative comes to somewhat of a halt and the momentum slows incredibly despite the fact what we see unfolding has yet to come to fruition and it remains unclear if things will turn out in the best interest of our lead character Russell Blaze (Christian Bale). Still, what keeps the ship from sinking is the fact that Cooper and his gritty eye keep the focus on the actors and the characters they are portraying and allow those performances to carry what might have otherwise been a sometimes silly, most of the time studied account of the backwood folks that apparently live in the hills outside of New Jersey. The site of an old steel town that allows the town resting below it to feel like it's stuck in the mid-70's, Cooper is clearly paying homage to the films of that era (namely Deer Hunter), this is where the story is set circa 2008, right around the time Obama was elected President and this little statement is used (as Killing Them Softly not-so subtly stated last year) to re-enforce the state of the economy at that time. All of this is effective in building the atmosphere and setting the tone for a film that knows who its characters are, where they've come from, but more importantly what little they likely have to look forward to. Full review here. B+

To be burdened with ambitions that outweigh what the average person looks for to find satisfaction in life is a burden that will weigh heavy your entire life. There is no escaping the thought that you need to keep trying, that you need to keep going or else you will miss the opportunity that will grant you access to a world and a life you have only dreamed of prior. There is seemingly no shame in this, but it can certainly make for an unpleasant existence. While in today's world it would seem easier to make one's self known for their musical ability it has become so crowded with so many people trying so many different avenues that those who do achieve a level of success that fully supports their livelihood are those whose names we know and hear rotated on top forty radio. They are deemed the successes, the ones who luck into or operate under the circumstances of being picked to have their song played over and over despite the fact music can be recorded, promoted and played on any social media and pretty much any device the average person carries around all day. It is more difficult than ever to make yourself stand out, but Llewyn Davis would argue to his point that no matter how hard he tried, being in the right place, playing the right music at the right time still doesn't guarantee success for despite the talent Davis possessed he was never able to catch a break. In the latest film from brothers Joel and Ethan Coen they bring their bleak, deadpan humor to the 1960's Greenwich Village folk scene and focus on a kind of day in the life of a struggling musician. Ultimately, the film becomes more than this and plays into the larger themes of disappointment and the difference in leading a fulfilling life and simply existing. It is, in many regards, a hard truth to swallow about human nature, our dreams and how we are conditioned to believe things must go a certain way in order to be regarded as a success which commonly translates to a satisfaction with ones self not too many people seem to ever fully reach. I have enjoyed Coen brothers films over the years and usually find their tone and sense of humor inviting and extremely in line with how my inner most thoughts work. Inside Llewyn Davis feels like something special though, something I'll cherish for a long time to come. Full review here. A+

Not being familiar with the Markus Zusak novel from which this film was adapted I had no real knowledge of what I was getting into with The Book Thief. Walking out of the film, I still wasn't sure what to make of what I'd just witnessed. There was nothing that struck me in a way where I knew I'd be thinking about the film for days afterward, but it became extremely clear over the course of the film that lead actress Sophie Nélisse was a true talent to watch and that if there was anything about this little film that might prove to be its mainstay it would be that it introduced the world to a great young actress that could very well go on to become exceptional. That isn't to say there is nothing else about the film that isn't interesting or worth talking about because in all actuality The Book Thief is a very solid picture, a kind of movie we don't get to see all that often these days because lines have been drawn in the sand that have categorized audiences to a point that telling the story of war, and specifically World War II Germany, from the perspective of a child would no doubt be looked at as something that doesn't fit squarely into any pre-determined demographic. Director Brian Percival (Downton Abbey) is lucky to have Zusak's 2006 book as a point of interest though as it has garnered interest in his vision of bringing the story of Liesel to the big screen and though it may not leave a huge cultural impact it is with ease that I say we are more fortunate than not having been given the opportunity to meet her. Nélisse's Liesel is our surrogate into late 1930's Germany up through to the end of the war and while the film doesn't tend to go with any of the typical trappings you might usually see coming from a film concerning Hitler and his minions what it does instead is give us pure insight into the day to day of what it was like to live during that time. In a constant state of fear, in worry of smiling too often or even stimulating ones mind by reading. While this all may sound like familiar ground and in some sense it is, The Book Thief is also a film that delivers a wonderful set of performances wrapped in a historical context that will do you no harm in coming to understand it a little better. Full review here. B

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