On DVD & Blu-Ray: November 11, 2014


Having re-watched the first installment of Hiccup and Toothless' adventures the night before venturing into the sequel I wondered how things might hold up. I remembered going into How to Train Your Dragon (HTTYD) with nothing in terms of expectations, but looking more for a care-free movie-going experience. Clearly, what was found in the film that night was something much more substantial, something special that came completely out of left field and took me by surprise. HTTYD not only exuded a fun, adventure story but it developed relationships to the point of authenticity whether they were between Hiccup and his father, his friends or his dragon. In the four years since the release of the first film it feels only more and more good will has built up for the film. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (HTTYD2) takes what we enjoyed about the first film and places things on a grander scale, but not because that's necessarily what sequels should do but because with their dragons the people of Berk have a much bigger world to explore. This idea of scope is introduced early when Hiccup skips out on a dragon racing competition and instead has taken Toothless out to explore in hopes of discovering new lands. Hiccup is putting together a map of what he discovers, essentially attempting to piece together the world he lives on. It is an admirable goal and one that shows how much the boy has grown since we last saw him. Hiccup's consistent quest to push the envelope and discover the fascinating things around him has not subsided but the scale on which he pursues his inquisitiveness has only heightened which helps to further define why he is such an interesting and worthy protagonist. Hiccup has grown into his lanky build and his just out of bed hairstyle is working much better for him these days, but while all seems well we know there can only be a sequel if trouble is brewing right around the corner. HTTYD2 does its best to make these consequences not feel like a necessity but more the natural progression of Hiccup's adventures and they do and we are all the better off for it. Full review here. B+

History is made up of moments better than our current situations or so nostalgia makes it seem. This obviously isn't always true and more times than not you won't feel the same way about the given moment in ten years as you feel about ten years ago now. Time and perspective can cause both more insightful thinking of what once was while also romanticizing it to a point it becomes nothing like the reality of what actually occurred. This is all to say that much of what we see take place on screen in Jersey Boys feels a little more appealing than it might have actually been for those who lived it. There is a moment near the end of the film where Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young) is talking to the camera as he reminisces about the best moments of being a part of his musical group, The Four Seasons, and how it came before the group hit it big when they sung acapella under street lamps. There is no doubt some truth to this sentiment, but were these really the best times in that moment when they were happening or did they become cherished memories with the frame of reference time helped lend? How much have these memories been idealized? In that actual point in their lives those four guys wanted nothing more than to get out from under the street lamps and get onto bigger stages with the only lights being the ones that held their names. Per the usual, once that level of success is achieved there is always someone who can't deal with all that fame brings. It is even written into the tag line that time does funny things to memories in that, "Everybody remembers it how they need to," and with each of The Four Seasons giving us versions of certain moments we can only assume this compilation of recollections is as close to the truth we will get, no matter how heightened it might be. The question is, as with every film, why should we care? Jersey Boys had the unique opportunity to bring to the screen a story we've seen a million times before in a fashion that might seem more arbitrary and authentic to audiences, but as the credits began to roll I felt more indifferent than I did starstruck. Full review here. C

There was and seemingly remains something off about Tammy. Not just in the case of the titular character that Melissa McCarthy portrays, but in the nature of the film itself. After following up her breakout in Bridesmaids with financially successful runs in Identity Thief and The Heat along with a slew of smaller, supporting roles in major comedies and two stints on Saturday Night Live it became clear McCarthy was the real deal. So, the idea she next chose to venture out on a low-budget road trip comedy directed by her husband Ben Falcone on a project they wrote with one another seemed completely understandable. There was an intimacy to it that no doubt was unheard of in the mainstream crowd-pleasers she was taking part in before. McCarthy earned her name above the title and so she was going to use that power to make something closer to her heart. This could only signal that the comedy and the execution of the story would be something that was cultivated by the husband/wife team and would certainly come across with more of an edge and better developed characters than most comedies these days, right? One would think so, but for all this pent-up optimism I held for Tammy she let me down in the toughest of ways in that not only did she not make me laugh or love her, but that there is essentially no reason for this movie to exist. That probably sounds a little more harsh than it should given it isn't the characters or even the situations that don't come up with anything-they just don't come up with anything new. I didn't really know what to expect from the film upon walking into the theater, but when it instantly became clear that this would be a film of self-discovery and redemption for a life without risk and full of regret through the format of a road trip comedy I was done. We've literally seen McCarthy go through this same evolution in the same way in the aforementioned Identity Thief so what was it that drove her and Falcone to make this movie over anything else? Likely a question we'll never get a satisfactory answer to, but nonetheless the point of Tammy was to capitalize on McCarthy's brand of humor and persona and while she is all over the place here she does no favors for herself or anyone around her as any laughs that came from the audience were more out of sympathy than anything else. Full review here. D

Movies such as Let's Be Cops live or die by the chemistry of the two leading actors and there is no debate that Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. like being around one another. Throughout the entirety of this feature they look like they had some serious fun making this movie together, but only so much of that comes through in the final product. As the saying goes: if the film were half as fun to watch as they seemed to have making it we might have been in for something that rivaled the recent success of the Jump Street series, but it doesn't. What this actually feels like while watching it is just a large amount of incompetence. It has a lazily constructed plot centered around an incohesive way of telling its story with even lazier comedy that comes purely from the improvisations and tones in which Johnson and Wayans deliver their dialogue and gyrate their bodies. If we really want to break it down though, Let's Be Cops is about as sub-par in the buddy cop genre as one can get. With both of the Jump Street movies there is the hook of the boys going undercover in high school and college which is always interesting (they try to do that here with the gimmick of not actually being cops, but again, it just seems more idiotic than funny), in Bad Boys there is a real sense of responsibility and peril to go along with the palpable chemistry (not to mention the pure R-rated Bayhem of the second one) and the same could be said for any of the Lethal Weapons. The pairing of personas such as Mel Gibson and Danny Glover was a hook in itself, but putting them in a legit action movie with character at the forefront only meant better results than expected. Let's Be Cops is a comedy though and one that wants to play on the archetypes of the aforementioned films while riding the coat tails of the Jump Street movies in hopes they too take off. Why they couldn't have found a different premise to execute the chumminess of Johnson and Wayans over, I don't know, but as it is I can only hope we don't get any sequels to this steaming mess of a movie. Full review here. D+