On DVD & Blu-Ray: April 29, 2014

I really wanted to like Labor Day, despite the negative press it received since premiering last fall at the Toronto International Film Festival. I wanted to believe that there was no way a film adapted and directed by Jason Reitman (Thank You For Smoking, Juno, Up in the Air) that starred Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, both well-respected and credible actors, would turn out to be little more than a melodramatic romance that could have been just as well adapted from the pages of a Nicholas Sparks novel than that of the Joyce Maynard source material. Granted, I don't know much about the source material or Maynard's writing, but if the film turns out to be anything it is a well-acted, beautifully shot slice of life drama that takes the late summer weekend that traditionally precedes the beginning of the school year and introduces a world of conflict into the otherwise simple life of a mother and child who are simply trying to get by. There is naturally more to the relationship between the mother and son as it becomes clear quite quickly that Henry (Gattlin Griffith) has been forced to grow up quicker than he anticipated and take care of his mother, Adele (Winslet), after his father (Clark Gregg) left them. Adele suffers from depression, but we understand this isn't due simply to the loss of her ex-husband to his secretary, but that this pain runs deeper and that the root cause of such pain has blurred the outlook she has on life and the qualities required to have what many would call a "normal" existence. There is a fair amount of ideas going on here; coming of age, forbidden love, regret and perspective, the depression aspect and of course the strong influence food plays in the developing relationships between characters. There is a charm to the film, but there is also a carelessness to the quality of the storytelling. Full review here. C

I have fortunately never been in the position to have to struggle or understand what it was like to have no one to turn to or to lean on. It is undoubtedly a scary feeling and something that seems brought on most of the time by nothing more than an unlucky set of circumstances. What I have never understood though, and movies have brought us countless characters with the same nature as our protagonist here, is why those who seem to struggle so much find it so hard to accept help. I understand it is easy to look at a situation as a person who’s never dealt with such harsh realities and not be able to understand the complexities of what is going through someone’s mind, to not understand how they see their life going nowhere and how the inability to trust anyone will forever hinder them in some way. These seem to be the points of tremendous stress and challenge in the life of Agnes Bailey or Apple as she prefers to be called as played by Vanessa Hudgens. Now, if you’ve heard about Gimme Shelter it has probably not been for the fact it is based on a true story or that it was the first of the many Christian-themed films to come out this year that re-enforce a value system easily frowned upon if you don’t reside in the Bible belt. No, if you’ve heard anything about Gimme Shelter it is probably due to the transformation with which Hudgens put herself through for this role. It is a film that at one point seems to have the smallest of aspirations to really be a kind of awards bait movie, while genuinely wanting to incite change in the heart of those who witness it. I was torn between what statement was really trying to be made here, what the agenda of the makers actually was as throughout the film I couldn’t read the true intentions of what the film was trying to accomplish. Is Hudgens almost trying too hard to be taken seriously? Is the tone a little overbearing and in many cases getting in the way of the already depressing story? Yea, in many ways it is and though there are redeeming moments that bring to light the type of solid drama this could have been Gimme Shelter ultimately suffers from poor craftsmanship more than anything else. Full review here. C

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