On DVD & Blu-Ray: April 28, 2015

The Gambler is one of those movies that is effortlessly cool. It doesn't ever feel like it's trying, but instead that it naturally comes by the virtues that make it appealing. Despite this fact, it is without a doubt the precise intention of director Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) that his film, a remake of the 1974 James Toback film starring James Caan, resemble something of a nuanced edge of humanity describing a state of mind more than something of this physical world. It is easy to see why The Gambler is one of those movies you expect to be of little significance as it is a remake of a film that seems well respected and not necessarily in any need of retelling (I haven't seen the original, but the DVD is sitting on my shelf and I'll definitely be giving it a look soon) as well as starring Mark Wahlberg who, as of late, has become a certifiable movie star and so we expect a certain amount of mainstream mentality to seep into each of his projects. Since the dawn of the second decade of the new millennium though, Wahlberg has found and continues to improve upon the path he is taking. With The Gambler he has accepted a challenge in seemingly taking on a more complex role, a lead role where it is not just the actions of his character that drive the plot, but the whole psychology of the character that has to be divulged in order for the narrative to feel even slightly cohesive. The overall goal of our main character, the events that drive this narrative are simple enough (pay off those you owe money to in a weeks time or pay the price), but it is the psychology of getting to that resolution that is the real issue because if it were as simple as getting the money to pay back his debts this movie would be about twenty minutes long. No, this isn't a race against time where Wahlberg's Jim Bennett has to scrounge up enough cash to free himself of his loan sharks thumb, but rather this is about Bennett being able to get to a state of being that lets him be okay with continuing to live, with continuing to win rather than constantly riding the thrill of the loss and hoping for the seeming peace of death. Full review here. B

They say the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. If you agree with that line of thinking than you will likely be disappointed in the latest from director Paul Thomas Anderson. At nearly two and a half hours, it is a mess of a masterpiece that begs for you to dissect every scene and every line of dialogue as well as how the actor speaking a said line conveys the meaning of their dialogue. Do we place this kind of importance on the film because it does indeed come from a filmmaker with the unique status of Anderson? If it came from a lesser known director would the awaiting audience be as accepting? It's hard to say and it hardly matters because no one else would ever make films like the ones Anderson crafts. Like his other six features, Inherent Vice is wholly a concoction of the directors singular voice and style. From Boogie Nights to There Will Be Blood and Magnolia to The Master Anderson has demonstrated an eclectic range that gives each new film a dynamic all its own. It has always been clear his sentiment is slightly off-kilter, but he has never made anything as loopy or goofy as what we have here and somehow it seems as if this is the truest representation of the person Anderson actually is. As much as Inherent Vice fits perfectly into Anderson's diverse filmography it is the way he has approached the project that stands out more than anything, maybe even more than the finished product itself. Set in Gordita Beach, California in the summer of 1970 as Vietnam rages on and the sixties come to a screeching halt the director infuses his film with this aesthetic by consistently relying on the style of limited camera movement and the framing of shots to capture specific angles that immediately conjure up references to films of the time period in which his film is set. From the attention to detail to the technicolor texture of the images and more forward to the seemingly blind, but no doubt highly calculated preciseness of not seeming to give two shits Anderson delivers a film that, on the surface, seems to make little sense at all. And yet, as one begins to dig deeper and break down the whole of the film into single scenes, individual moments and certain pieces of dialogue it somehow makes more sense even if that bigger picture is all but lost. While Inherent Vice isn't and won't be hailed as Anderson's greatest work, it is easy to see it becoming the one his loyal fans end up returning to most often. Full review here. B

Writer/director Jimmy Garelick and star Kevin Hart know what they have on their hands with The Wedding Ringer. It is clear from the first moment Hart shows up on screen and they wear it on their sleeve with a badge of honor. In what is essentially a mash-up of Wedding Crashers and I Love You, Man as well as any other movie you've ever seen with "wedding" in the title there is nothing innovative or unconventional about this film, but it has its laughs and that's all that really matters. With that, the film breezes through its expected beats with a care-free tone and consistent laugh factor that kept the audience I saw it with rolling (granted, they did get to see it for free). Still, this is a film that not much was initially expected of and, if anything, solidified the fact that studios were definitely trying to mold Hart into the next Adam Sandler as here the comedian is blatantly ripping on the title of Sandler's 1998 hit. Sandler is currently experiencing something of a slight drought in bankability and so the studios have moved in on who else they might turn to and Hart has proven a winning candidate so far. The man will allow them to throw together slapdash efforts of films that will turn huge profits on minuscule budgets year after year while trusting that the on-set riffs and improvisations are enough to satisfy audiences need for laughter. Yes, The Wedding Ringer is no doubt a film put together by a committee to appeal to as many people as possible and yes, it is predictable, slightly sexist with a cast of male chauvinist pigs at the core and never aspires to be more than it has to be, but in initially setting its bar so low it doesn't have as hard a time surpassing that bar. I realize this isn't high art, but it's not intended to be and so, for what it's worth, I found the film to be highly entertaining, extremely funny at parts with a raunch aspect that serves to ease the fact this is little more than a rom-com from the perspective of the fellas. The Wedding Ringer is what it is and if you buy a ticket knowing that, you'll get what you want. I wanted a mindless comedy and that's what I was given so consider me a happy customer, Mr. Hart. Full review here. C+

The Boy Next Door is ridiculous, outlandish and all-around pretty dumb. The good thing is, once we get to the third act of this ridiculousness we have a firm grip on whether or not the people behind the movie understand that as well. The Boy Next Door cost a minuscule $4 million to make and easily recouped that with a ton of gravy on top because it is exactly the kind of movie its target audience wanted to see on a cold January afternoon and I imagine will still apply (if not all the better) to a rainy spring night on the couch. Still, there is no way around the fact the movie itself is pretty bad despite much of it seeming intentional. There is nothing from the first two acts to suggest its intentions. Instead, it initially seems director Rob Cohen and his cast were decidedly set on making a serious thriller. It is one of those films that should be a guilty pleasure, one that is fun to watch whenever you don't really feel like thinking, where you're envious of the world these people live in because it seems so picture perfect only to have it rocked by the drama and scandal you fed off of as a teenager. The Boy Next Door largely meets those qualifications, but isn't necessarily the one you would pick for the job when there are so many other, more competent satires of this type of film out there that will not only make you feel less stupid for wasting your time on them, but also have a little fun with their premise. It's almost as if Cohen tried not to have any fun or poke any jokes at the story for those first two acts before throwing his hands in the air and yelling, "to hell with it!" and putting all his eggs in the basket of his climax. By virtue of this being one of those movies we quickly label "so bad it's good" one feels inclined to forgive much of its shortcomings, but just because the finale inspires confidence that Cohen and his crew knew what we hoped they did all along doesn't make it a good movie. This is still a bad movie, one that almost doesn't feel fun enough to earn that aforementioned label, but it has its moments and I can't say I didn't laugh at all-because there is certainly some laughing to be had. Full review here. D

I regretted not catching Paddington during its theatrical run as I've still heard nothing but good word of mouth around it, but will definitely be looking into it now. My lineage has a strong British aspect to it and I grew up knowing Paddington Bear and having the books read to me with the dolls sitting around and so I'm certainly interested in seeing this feature length film centering around the character. I also now have a little girl of my own I wouldn't mind introducing Paddington to and sitting at home on the couch and sharing in that experience with her is likely worth the wait.

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