On DVD & Blu-Ray: April 14, 2015

Margaret Keane was made a prisoner and forced to live a lie. She was a timid, creative type not confident in her own skill and she was taken advantage of to the point she became trapped in this lie she felt she helped create. What was worse was that the cover-up of the initial lie became more punishing than the lie itself and only continued to grow and eat away at Margaret for the better part of a decade. With this type of story, this kind of inherently dramatic and interesting material there is plenty to dissect and examine and in the hands of a director like Tim Burton you might imagine that to be pretty promising. As of late though, Burton has resorted to a safety zone of reliable tricks and familiar stylings in order to keep his output regular and as a result his overall clout has somewhat diminished with those who adored his earlier work. Burton has always had a singular style, but the issue lately has been finding material inspiring enough to match his peculiar visions. With Big Eyes he has the opportunity to present something of an introspective look at the dynamics of a marriage where one partner is essentially a slave and the other is delusional to the point of being a maniac. There are surely several statements to be made here, but Burton simply allows the material to speak for itself; intending to do little with his approach other than ensuring it looks like a Tim Burton film. As far as the depths of the souls in question here though, the material is only skin deep. For example, David Fincher took what could have easily become little more than a Lifetime-channel drama about a dysfunctional marriage and by infusing it with his distinct voice, his precise style and countless undertones while keeping the focus on one major theme crafted the most engaging crime thriller of the year if not the last decade. There is no such resonance to Big Eyes, but instead it is simply fine for what it is with two talented actors doing what they do best. It is a modest effort that I can't say I didn't enjoy as the story is interesting and perplexing, but I wasn't taken in by it and I wasn't thinking about it hours after leaving the theater. Instead, because it asked so little of me as an active viewer I suspected it had no intentions of lingering and so it's hard to fault it for being something it's not, but it's disappointing knowing it could have been something more. Full review here. C+

The Babadook begins with a a woman falling through what feels like endless black space until she hits her bed to realize it was all a dream. As it turns out though, these moments of seeming fear may be the most peaceful moments of Amelia's (Essie Davis) day. She wakes to a barren house, haunted by the past and frozen in time by the future that never came. She has a five year-old son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), who is nothing short of a terror that drains her of her energy and will to live on what feels like a daily basis. In fact, Samuel is made so grating and infuriating that we understand the extreme lengths the film pushes Amelia to. It is clear in this simple set-up of a relationship and the disdain surrounding Samuel from the only family we're privy to seeing that this is intended to be subtle horror. That there is more to the story than the intent to elicit jump scares, but rather to elicit full on emotional exhaustion by the time things come to a head. These distinctive qualities in the genre allow The Babadook to stand apart from the handful of other small, independent horror releases. Granted, I haven't made it around to watching such films as The Sacrament or As Above, So Below, but this seems to be on another level completely, engrossing the audience as much through its filmmaking techniques as its story. Writer and director Jennifer Kent combines the two to create a truly effective film, or at least half a film, before it spins out of what feels like even her control in the last half hour. That said, the elements that make up the building tension of the first hour are so expertly crafted and handled in such a refreshing manner that we can't help but give into the thought that it's the heightened expectations set after our experience with the film so far that allow the conclusion to not live up to them. This is mainly true because we care more about the two central characters than the titular villain of the piece and the third act relies too heavily on the actions of this mysterious creature. Full review here. B-

I don't understand the intent of satire if not to criticize and expose the stupidity of others with the inflicted idea of how to correct such stupidity. I'm not saying everyone who pokes fun of something has to have a solution for how it shouldn't be funny, but while director David Cronenberg's latest, Maps to the Stars, is most definitely intended to be satire it certainly has no intention of being funny and with that one would expect it to have something more to say than the comments it hands out. If you've been watching movies for any amount of time you will come to realize the one thing Hollywood loves more than money is itself and so the indie kings, the rebellious filmmakers and those who generally defy the system consistently mock it for never allowing them the artistic expression to do as they please. To this point, I'm not one who is overly-keen on Cronenberg's work (though I admittedly haven't seen much) and so before you read any further know there is a bit of a grudge present because despite hearing promising things from the time I really began investing critical thinking in film (A History of Violence) I have come to be slightly disappointed with the results of what has been praised. Again, his last couple efforts (Cosmopolis and A Dangerous Method) have admittedly not been his most well-received, but while I knew I was experiencing something different with both Violence and Eastern Promises I didn't necessarily dig what I was seeing either. Maybe I didn't "get" what Cronenberg was going for, it's easy to dismiss it as such, but in giving a valid effort to want to like every film I watch I typically come away with something whether I feel a movie is good or bad, but the majority of the time I walk away from a Cronenberg picture simply feeling frustrated. I know there is plenty more to see between what I've heard about Scanners and The Fly, but why should I feel intrigued when the other products this company has produced haven't been satisfactory? Maps to the Stars is no different in that it features a singular style and voice, but more disappointing here is the fact we've seen this kind of satire before and so this typically unique perspective doesn't even feel fresh. Full review here. D

I enjoyed Daniel Radcliffe's initial departure from Harry Potter in February of 2012 as it presented something of a different style in horror that we hadn't seen in a while, but I wouldn't say I was exactly itching for a sequel. Of course, things being what they are today we got one anyway. The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death came and went so fast this past January I'm sure no one remembers it, but luckily you can refresh your memory now. I don't know that I'll ever have any desire to check this out unless I just get really desperate around Halloween and need something to fall asleep to.

I tend to enjoy these DC animated films when I actually make time to check them out. I try my best to keep up with them as I always feel an inherent responsibility to remain as up to date on my Batman lore as possible and Batman Vs Robin would be an interesting title even if I hadn't kept up with the caped crusaders animated adventures since I was a kid. Needless to say, I hope to check this one out soon if not eventually add it to my collection.

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