On DVD & Blu-Ray: March 17, 2015

What can you say about a film that is fine for what it is and nothing more? Exodus: Gods and Kings is a movie, it has entertaining moments, looks fantastic and while I obviously didn't love it there is certainly no reason to hate it either. The real problem is the fact there's no vision or passion behind the project. Director Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner) is nearing eighty and in his aging state seems intent on pumping out films at a quicker rate than ever. Since the massive success of Gladiator at the dawn of the millennium the director has not gone more than two years without making a film and more times than not he delivers one on an annual basis. With a project on the scale of Exodus though, one might imagine he'd have to take more time for prep and the development of visual effects at the least, but moreso for the necessity of trying to really make something substantial. Scott hardly seems interested in making anything of note these days though and instead is a misguided storyteller somewhat fascinated by history, more interested in spectacle and with no sense of impassioned faith, not even in his own work. I can only imagine what might come of an elder Scott picture were he to really take the process step by step and first develop the script he is given, this one patched together by four different screenwriters, then move on to planning a visual representation of that story that might actually allow the audience to become invested or feel a part of the action. Scott clearly has no problem getting budgets to secure the epic scope of his films nor is there an issue with attracting top talent to headline his movies, but instead of using these advantages to his advantage they are wasted on mediocre products that have consistently ended up feeling more like cogs in the machine than any type of exception to the rule. One might expect a Biblical epic in the vein of Cecil B. DeMille with a more contemporary approach to serve as fascinating for the generations that find Charlton Heston's version dated, but instead we receive more of what we are conditioned to. Exodus: Gods and Kings is less an inspired retelling of a story we all know and more another attempt by Hollywood to cash in on a pre-established brand. Full review here. C

To set the stage: I've never seen any version of Annie other than the one I'm about to discuss here. I don't know that I would consider it essential viewing and by some off chance I never saw or read the stage play going through the public school system. Sure, I know a few of the famous songs that were spawned from the original production and I know the basic premise of what is going on, but anything more than that I'm in the dark on. With that preface, I feel I can safely assume this latest version is a far cry from what the original had to offer, but that isn't the reason this modern day take on the story doesn't work. I was always somewhat hesitant to even be interested in the film as I'm clearly not the target audience, but when the first trailer premiered I admit I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of careless fun that seemed to be brightly packaged with this pure pop confection that gave the impression it would likely be a big holiday hit with the kiddos. These positive vibes were only reinforced when, upon doing a little further reading, I found out that Will Gluck would be at the helm of the project. Gluck, who has made three solid comedies since 2009 seems to direct what most have so much trouble doing with ease. There is a simplicity to his comedy that oozes naturally out of the characters he has at play and his pacing always compliments the rapid dialogue at which it is exchanged and thus at which the plot is advanced. Easy A is easily one of my favorite comedies of the last ten years as I've watched it more times than I can count and maybe one of the great high school comedies of all time. Needless to say, despite not being familiar with the material and despite knowing this wasn't going to be for me I was still excited to see Gluck work in a slightly different genre as well as what he might have to offer in terms of crafting a children's film that was both highly entertaining and insightful given the obvious emotion at the core of the given story. Unfortunately, this new Annie is anything but fun as it loses its energy and momentum soon after the opening number and is never able to regain that feeling for the remainder its nearly two hour run time. Full review here. D

Never have I been a huge fan of Chris Rock. I don't mind the guy, but his rise to fame as an edgy stand-up comedian was during a time in my life when I would never have been allowed to watch his specials. The Rock I know is the guy who did a voice for Eddie Murphy in Doctor Dolittle and who made Pootie Tang, Down to Earth and a handful of other forgettable comedies in the early part of the new millennium. Of course, as I've grown I've been able to gain a better perspective on the history of this spectacularly famous comic who, despite starring in such drab as What To Expect When You're Expecting and two Grown Ups films as of late, maintains a credible reputation as a top comic performer and stand-up comedian with real intelligence and raw bite. While Rock's acting talent has clearly always been limited it is the intellect that provides his introspect that sets him apart. He knows how to tell a story, even if he isn't the most suitable to convey it and he understands that. So, what does he do? He goes ahead and writes a film about himself, perfect for him to lead and why not? You write what you know and as a comedian you speak the truth; you talk about everything, ripping off the band aids and with that mentality Rock has put it all on the line. As a comedian maybe wanting, trying even, to make a transition what better way is there for him to plead his case? Like in Birdman, Rock purposefully casts himself in the lead role of a man who mirrors his own real life experiences, but also like this years Best Picture winner this isn't just about a jaded actor trying to make a hit play or movie, but more about the legacy they want to leave. In talking specifically about Top Five, Rock is interested in discussing the kind of ego that comes along with being a personality that people become a fan of and keeping that personality in check so that the ego doesn't balloon that personality to something that's no longer valuable while still feeding the surrogate what they need from it. Ego is a disease, something you can become addicted to and as much as Rock lets out his frustrations on everything from reality TV to Tyler Perry movies this is ultimately about satisfying his own ego in hopes of doing more of what he wants while keeping fans of his personality interested by relying on what he's best known for. Full review here. B

The trailer for Penguins of Madagascar actually got a few chuckles out of me and I like the Madagascar trilogy films well enough that I plan on giving this a watch soon enough. Strange this wasn't a bigger hit at the box office around the holidays, but I'm curious to see if that has anything to do with the actual quality of the film.

Song of the Sea was nominated for Best Animated Film at this years Oscars, but that likely isn't enough to compel me to ever give it a watch. I just haven't found a film that will break me into the anime genre/market and I don't see this being the one to do it. Maybe some day...

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