On DVD & Blu-Ray: November 4, 2014


Who exactly was this movie intended for? I couldn't help but to keep asking myself this as Maleficent played out, unsure of what it wanted to be, completely torn between two drastically different tones. There was naturally something interesting about this different approach to the current trend of re-telling classic fairy tales in live action form and casting Angelina Jolie as the titular villain guaranteed nothing short of a fair amount of interest but the final result we've been delivered is nothing but a badgering of the original Disney animated film that proves trying something different is truly hard to accept if it isn't done right. While it is easy to give credit to the machine that is Disney for at least attempting to think outside the box rather than simply bringing the same story to the screen with real-live people (though it looks like 90% of the film is CG anyway) Maleficent is actually less innovative than Tarsem Singh's 2012 take on the Snow White tale. At least that movie had a different rhythm to get in tune with while here we get exactly what we expect and even a little less depending on what age group you belong to. I remember plenty of children at the screening I attended, mainly young girls, and throughout you could hear them giggling at the intended bits of comic relief and gasping as Jolie re-created the famous scene in which Maleficent casts her spell on the young princess. To those reactions I began to wonder what I might have thought of this had I seen it as a child. Would it have been one of those my parents might have bought when it came out on VHS and I re-watched over and over? The only equivalent I came up with was Stephen Sommers 1994 adaptation of The Jungle Book that also came from Disney. It was very much a children's film while playing on the darker tones of the Rudyard Kipling story and that is what first-time director Robert Stromberg (yes, they entrusted this summer tentpole to a first-time director) seems intent on doing here as well, but his over-reliance on special effects and a muddled screenplay do nothing but disservice what vision he might have had. Full review here. D+

Twelve years ago the Rock "arrived" with The Scorpion King in full swords and sandals glory. In the summer of 2014 he has returned to that well-worn genre that has lost much of the interest that Gladiator garnered for it in 2000. If anyone could bring films based in this type of world or adaptations of the stories in Greek mythology back into the casual movie-goers field of vision it would surely be the reigning king of action flicks, right? Over the past three years Dwayne Johnson has re-vitalized the Fast & Furious and G.I. Joe franchises while bringing new life to the Journey To... movies. In many ways Hercules was the test of just what Johnson could attract and handle on his own with only the significance of brand recognition assisting him. Sure, he's had flicks like Snitch and Faster that cast him as the sole marquee star, but this was an all-out Summer B-movie with a big budget, sprawling scope and, as the trailers would have you believe, large amounts of CGI fantasy. While I am happy to report that Hercules is both varied in scope and is quite expansive while offering genuine thrills it isn't the CGI-heavy bonanza of easy-outs that the trailers advertised and made me cautious in getting too excited for. About twenty minutes into the movie I began wondering whether the film would add up to anything more than escapism or if there might be something here, something deeper they were going for. I say the previous sentence not in the line of thought that I think everything necessarily has to be about something, but more in a curious fashion as to if director Brett Ratner would aspire to something more than what was expected. It was with something akin to a sigh of relief that when the credits began to role on this latest incarnation of the Greek demi-God that I felt wholly satisfied. Maybe expectations play a certain role in that, maybe this movie won't hold up after multiple viewings, maybe Johnson needs to stick to strong supporting roles that don't require so much heavy lifting and maybe Ratner shouldn't get the opportunity to do anything outside this wheelhouse again, but for what it is intended to be Hercules is good, if not forgettable, fun. Full review here. C

Anton Corbijn's A Most Wanted Man is one of those movies I can appreciate, but will likely never have the desire to sit through again. Funny enough, you could say the same of his previous film, The American, which was my introduction to the filmmaker. The American was a surprisingly restrained film in almost every aspect of its being-from the images we saw, the music that complimented them and on to the central performance from George Clooney. In many ways it was a break into the studio system for Corbijn while showing the suits he very much had his own way of telling a story. If A Most Wanted Man does anything with this kind of power it actually plays more in tune with what we have grown accustomed to in the genre of spy thrillers while still keeping the pacing at a slow boil and the action to a minimum. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this of course, especially when you have the source material of John le Carré (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) to work with and as well-pedigreed a cast as is on display here. By virtue of its cast and credentials alone this would strike most as an interesting film, but as a mature audience you come to actually appreciate the film for the line of thinking it promotes. It is a slow, methodical film that deals as much in the details of its plot as it represents the perceived perception of man in his many different incarnations. This theme, while heavily influenced by the title, is demonstrated in Corbijn's film by how individuals may be portrayed in certain circles as perfectly respectable, harmless even yet in others are wanted for possible terror motives. Obviously, the film depicts an extreme case of this nature, but it still conveys the necessary needs to see the bigger picture and describes how recognizing the smaller aspects might compliment said bigger picture rather than going bullet by bullet and crossing them off. It is an intriguing approach and one that makes you consider the nature of absolutes while never painting any of its multiple characters as necessarily bad or evil, but simply as people trying to do a job and come off as successful as possible. It is impossible to facilitate a fair and unbiased opinion in every situation, but A Most Wanted Man's characters strive for this ideal in each of their actions. Full review here. B

I didn't see the original Planes and have no plans of checking out this sequel.