On DVD & Blu-Ray: March 31, 2015


Where does one even begin? To describe a film as ambitious and overwhelming as director Christopher Nolan's Interstellar is to take on as daunting a task as Nolan likely felt in making sure the science of his script was accurate. Having only seen the film once I'm still not sure I know exactly how I feel about it or what I think. I know that I am fascinated by it, I know that there is so much going on within it that I will need to see it again to feel I even somewhat understand it and I know that no matter how much I want to be able to say I either decisively adored or disliked the final product that kind of ruling won't come down until I've had multiple viewings and allowed plenty of time to pass. In this age of instant gratification where first weekends determine whether you are a success or failure, Interstellar offers an experience that demands to be contemplated, debated and seriously considered before ever giving anything close to a defiant verdict. I will admit to my initial reaction being that of pure awe while somewhat corrupted by the fact there were facets that didn't thrill me as much as others; sequences where the film felt it could have been trimmed or was a little too scatterbrained in contrast to the more precise scenes where Nolan is clearly in control of his spaceship. Ambition is key though and that is the one thing Nolan is never short of. Always pushing the limits, not only visually, but within the story, this time backed up by science that places the events of the film within the realm of real possibility. We are asked to make a few exceptions in how far we are willing to go with all we see being steeped in reality, but unlike some issues of the past Nolan and his screenwriter brother Jonathan have crafted dimensional characters that are able to keep the sentimentality in check. There is never a moment where the film regresses from not being one hundred percent about the actuality of the situation at hand and the facts that support it, but it is able to take into consideration what we cannot explain or fully understand and how that might indeed factor into what is best for the characters outcome. It is a genuine mix of heart and facts that meld together over the course of three hours leaving you bewildered, haunted, alarmed and mystified to the point you may not be able to swallow everything you just took in, but will certainly be able to appreciate the intent. Full review here. A-

There is a line that is repeated several times in director Morten Tyldum's The Imitation Game that reassures our lead character that, "Sometimes it is the people we imagine nothing of, who do the things we can not imagine." This applies to our protagonist because our protagonist is Alan Turing as played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Turing has now come to be renowned as the brilliant mathematician and cryptanalyst who broke the German Enigma code in World War II that won the war quicker and as a result saved millions of lives. This man who seemingly would need to have everything going for him to come to such a prosperous title is given the aforementioned advice though because he is challenged every step of the way. It is clear from the moment we meet Cumberbatch's Turing that he suffers from some high level of asperger's syndrome in that his demeanor is not simply an irrational genius routine, but a degree of social awkwardness that conveys an inability to truly relate with those around him because he likely feels no one truly understands him. In coming at the world from his unique perspective, Turing sees human beings as simply being too selfish to make the sacrifices necessary to stave off the mental and physical threat posed by the enemies of his country. This leads to the creation of what is essentially the first computer that, while saving large parts of humanity that would have otherwise been lost, requires an equal amount of restraint that will knowingly allow people to die. It is only the ability to both create and be disconnected that the best definition of a perspective success can be claimed and Turing had the mentality and genius to see both through. Yes, in war there are countless deceptions and non-democratic decisions being made which, as long as they are for the seeming good of humanity, remain completely acceptable. It is on this fine line that the most interesting ideals are born from the film as Turing learns not only how to gauge his intelligence, but how best to use it. There is much to be admired in Tyldum's rather straightforward biopic that despite being as by the numbers as one can imagine, is consistently enhanced by its exceedingly fascinating story. Full review here. B

The thought of Reese Witherspoon, the sweet and petite blonde from New Orleans made famous by broad comedies like Legally Blonde and Sweet Home Alabama, playing a down on her luck hitchhiker dealing with a past that includes drug problems and excessive fornication with the dealers of those drugs isn't one that immediately meshes well. Despite "Academy Award Winner" being inscribed above her name every time she takes on an Oscar-bait role such as this there still seems a very confined set of types we expect the actress to play. For some reason, I don't expect Witherspoon to be a very versatile performer and though her actual person is no doubt much more interesting due, if not for nothing else, to everything she's accomplished there is still such such a specific on-screen persona I expect from her. As many actors before her looking to fulfill something more in their careers by challenging themselves or just to simply add depth to their filmogrpahy, Witherspoon breaks away from what is expected of her and completely embraces this necessary journey her character goes on, warts and all. In many ways it is refreshing. Witherspoon has been stuck trying to figure out where to go with her career after winning her Oscar for Walk the Line, semi-afraid of doing romantic comedies again, but finding comfort in them while love stories never stray far from her grasp. Frozen and Maleficent have both been huge hits for Disney, but more importantly they have raised the idea over the past year that not all love stories have to be about the romantic relationship, but more the love of what else enriches our lives. While Wild is nothing like either of those films, it keeps this kind of love story in mind and is executed in such a way that we come to appreciate the journey of the character realizing this factoid. Wild is a character study, but it is not a film that rests solely on the performance of its lead. Witherspoon is more than capable and fully immerses herself in the ever changing state of mind Cheryl Strayed must have experienced as we go on this journey with her, but more than that director Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club) has crafted a fully realized film around her. Full review here. B-

Wild Card starts off by quickly setting up two intriguing predicaments. One is to show what our main character, Nick Wild (Jason Statham), does for a living while the other is an unspecified woman being dropped off, beaten and battered, at the emergency room. There is no need to understand how the two scenarios might connect as the movie isn't intent on making a major mystery of anything, but rather Wild Card is more intent on simply hooking you in hopes that you might stick around to see what scenario the next Statham caricature might be forced to use his martial arts skills to take care of. Giving credit where credit is due, the hook is nicely placed and I'm a fan of Statham so I was willing to go along with what could of course never rise to become more than a mediocre action flick. That is simply what we expect from Statham in his solo outings, but somehow he always manages to bring something more to the table than we ever expect. Whether it be the tone and setting of Homefront, the large amount of sympathy and goodwill contained in his character from Safe, the twists of War, the time period and fellow actors in Killer Elite or even the gritty, grimy style of something like The Mechanic-there is always an aspect of these Statham films that allow them become more than what we bargained for which was a direct to video movie so trashy and standard it is instantly forgettable. Instead, Statham operates on the principles of intriguing character pieces despite him being pegged as playing the same guy over and over again. This is partially true as each of the characters the action star portrays resembles one another in some form or fashion, but their circumstances always paint a different picture and it is this information that informs the state of mind of the character that allows Statham leniency from his British accent and bad boy facade. In Wild Card he is again a kind of bodyguard, but he is a man with an addiction and one that doesn't derive from drugs or alcohol, but that of one he could make a clean break from if he so chose. It's the choices that make Statham's characters different and if anything new comes to light in this otherwise generic film it is why Statham is equally as heralded as he is crapped upon. Full review here. C