On DVD & Blu-Ray: May 19, 2015


There is an immediate sense of dread from the moment the black fades into the overwhelming tank crawling towards us in Clint Eastwood's American Sniper. Combined with the bombarding sound design that insists your heart start beating faster it's apparent the veteran director intends to put you right in the middle of the action. It's not that the life of Chris Kyle was filled with nothing but dread or other related emotions, but it was certainly filled with a fair amount. Based on the memoir penned primarily by Kyle of the same name, Eastwood and lead actor Bradley Cooper have acquired a no frills way of telling a straightforward story about what seemed to be a very direct man. I have not read Kyle's memoir from which this film was adapted, but if you take away anything from the film version it is the state of mind Kyle was always in. There is a consistent sense of complete confidence in himself that infiltrates the viewers perception of how events will play out, but where things become gray are in the contemplations of how what he is doing might fit into his overall role in life. From the teachings passed down by his father Cooper's Kyle was bred to look at the world as a very black and white place, as a place where only a limited number of personalities existed and where the rule of absolutes made him something of a protector to those who couldn't or didn't know how to defend themselves. When it comes to portraying this type of mentality on screen though one could encounter a few issues given our protagonist isn't the most articulate with his emotions and much of the drama surrounding his wife, Taya (Sienna Miller), deals with his long absences during tours that unfortunately become so common they're hard to convey without a hackneyed stench hanging over it. Attempting to make something more out of this or dig deeper into the material so as to come up with a kind of insight or original angle would only serve to seemingly overdo what is right in front of their faces though. And so, there are no storytelling flourishes or flowery filmmaking language incorporated, but just like the man himself, this is a very basic and to the point account that speaks volumes after the film ends by not saying much while you're in the midst. Full review here. B

I don’t know if it’s because I’m older and maybe less impressionable, but while I found the original Hot Tub Time Machine to be humorous in its attempt at pure ridiculousness this sequel seems to be latching so hard to the absurdity of the first that it just falls flat on its face every single time it tries. I guess trying is maybe too kind of a word as it seems that is the last thing on the peoples minds behind this debacle as they contort and twist their way around one too many reasons why John Cusack isn’t back for this go around. I can’t say it really adds or takes away anything with Cusack not being present, but more he was smart to stay away from it even if the truth is he wasn’t asked back at all. The funnier route to go would have been to publicly acknowledge how difficult the actor was to work with by having his friends in the film say how they never really liked him anyway and that he quit hanging out with them after they got back to the present and leave it at that. Instead, the script from Josh Heald, who also wrote the original and who has only penned one other film outside the Hot Tub franchise called Mardi Gras: Spring Break is doing nothing here but walking in circles and hoping the chemistry between the characters will be enough to elicit laughs from the audience. Instead, the friendships seem stale, the tone is beyond unenthusiastic and worst of all the movie just sits there with second rate components and characters who have no idea what they’re doing. This should be a sequel where, much like its predecessor, it exists simply to have a little fun or as an excuse to let off a little steam and laugh at something meaningless, but rather than simply go for emphasizing the camaraderie between the cast and letting these guys pre-defined senses of humor spill out over the presented outlandish scenarios both Heald and director Steve Pink bog them down in semantics of the plot and scenarios so forced we can't hardly buy into any of it being remotely funny. Ridiculous can be funny, but forcing laughs never is and that is Hot Tub Time Machine 2's greatest offense. Full review here. F