On DVD & Blu-Ray: September 9, 2014

The looming question after The Avengers was always going to be if movies only featuring one of the team members would suffice after this all-star team-up and while I enjoy Iron Man 3 more and more with each viewing and appreciate it for what it did for the character I have to say the opposite of The Dark World. The Thor sequel sacrificed going through with the clear demise of a character for the sake of fan affection and in no real way contributes to the larger arc of the story Marvel seems to be telling within its criss-crossed cinematic universe. I may come to regret that sentence when Avengers: Age of Ultron takes some big notes from the introduction of the Aether that drives the plot in The Dark World, but for now it seems that the introduction of this new energy source could have served as a small subplot in the film rather than being the main reason for conflict while also providing Malekith's sole reason for existing in the film. With Captain America: The Winter Soldier though, Marvel had its back to the wall in being forced to push the narrative forward as Captain America operates within the world most of our heroes also reside and more than that is affiliated with the organization that brought the super group together thus meaning if this sequel turned out to be a place holder then there was going to be a new wave of doubt in Marvel Studios and its master plan that would feel more off the cuff than meticulously planned. Lucky for audiences, Winter Soldier is both a solid film on its own terms and a solid entry in the Marvel canon that not only moves the story forward and reveals new, unexpected developments but also sets-up an interesting dynamic for how things will unfold in the future. Within all of these films the struggle is to make a sufficient stand-alone piece that works with what it is trying to accomplish on its own and without simply leaning on the fact there is another, inevitable chapter coming. As much as these Marvel films have become big, expensive episodes in an ever-evolving cinematic version of a television series, if they were going to survive as singular pieces of entertainment they were going to need to have a strong sense of individuality and The Winter Soldier, for the first time since The First Avenger, has that singular style and tone that separates it from its cohorts while understanding the necessities of contributing to things bigger than itself. Full review here. B

I probably won't get around to seeing this re-make of Pierre Morel's District B13, despite the fact it is on of the late Paul Walker's last films. Brick Mansions, as it is now titled, seems an empty-headed, cheap action flick that is all but late in trying to capitalize on the popularity of parkour that would have likely gone straight to home video had Walker not passed away unexpectedly. That may be unfair to say, but whether it is true or not it just doesn't seem Mansions is worth anyone's time or money.

Palo Alto begins a series of smaller releases I look forward to checking out in the coming days and weeks. This directorial debut from Gia Coppola (Francis Ford's granddaughter and Sofia's niece) is an adaptation of a series of short stories by James Franco (who also stars) about modern teenage existence in the titular city. The critic quotes in the trailer praise it as a great story of youth and Emma Roberts for a breakthrough performance which makes me eager to see if the film lives up to the buzz.

This black and white Polish film has been well-received by everyone I know that has seen it. Telling the story of a young novitiate nun in 1960s Poland, Anna is on the verge of taking her vows when she discovers a dark family secret dating back to the years of the Nazi occupation. I have heard more about the cinematography and beauty of the film more than the story itself though and at a mere 82-minutes I imagine even those who don't like reading subtitles might be able to make it through Ida and appreciate what it has to offer. I certainly intend to see what I've been missing out on when this becomes available to stream.

Finally, we have God's Pocket, another of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman's final films that played at this years Sundance Film Festival and despite receiving lukewarm reviews still feels a necessary watch. It is also the directorial debut of Mad Men's John Slattery who adapted Peter Dexter's novel with Alex Metcalf about a man whose crazy step-son is killed in a construction accident and the fact those around him are happy he's gone. In trying to bury the bad news, the body and hide the truth from the boy's mother, Mickey (Hoffman) finds himself stuck in a life-and-death struggle between a body he can't bury, a wife he can't please and a debt he can't pay.

There is also A Long Way Down, which, seems appealing due to its cast, but did not charm anyone upon its premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival earlier this year. Pierce Brosnan, Toni Colette, Aaron Paul and Imogen Poots star in this film based on a 2005 Nick Hornby novel about four people who meet on New Year's Eve and form a surrogate family that help one another weather the difficulties of their lives. It doesn't sound horrible and it clearly had potential, but the combination of bad reviews and a complete lack of interest will likely keep me away from this one.  

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