On DVD & Blu-Ray: June 16, 2015

Something rather odd occurred with Chappie as I attempted to take it in unphased by the haze of bad press it had swirling around it. For a good portion of the film, the parts before it essentially devolves into something of a mindless action film, I wasn't really gelling with what director Neill Blomkamp was going for. It's not that I didn't necessarily understand where he was coming from or what he was going for, but it just wasn't vibing with this particular audience member the way I feel he intended it to. As Chappie morphed into this one, big action sequence though I began to appreciate the way in which Blomkamp integrated all the elements he'd been setting up even if some of those elements were rather frustrating. What I appreciated most though was the fact the film didn't go exactly where it could have and where I expected it to easily resort to, but in fact went a completely different direction and touched on a theme I didn't foresee the writer/director including in his script. As far as themes are concerned, Blomkamp is known for crafting large metaphors and for mirroring real-world issues with his science fiction stories, but as with Elysium my main problem here is that Blomkamp is touching on issues that are relevant now and not where those issues might push society in the future which is where Chappie is set and how science fiction typically works. Granted, it is only a few years, but after touching on South Africa's apartheid era in District 9 and the satire of Elysium commenting on the current state of separation between classes I somewhat expected Chappie to push things to a different level for Blomkamp and frequent writing partner Terri Tatchell. The issue with all of the elements Blomkamp introduces and that he and Tachell expertly integrate with one another is that instead of pushing things further, they just throw more plotlines with more themes at us to crowd our minds so that we might not focus on the fact the film doesn't have much to say about any single one of them, but more acknowledges that they exist and are rather interesting. In the end, what does this accomplish though? If no one line of thinking prevails, if no one idea is clarified, what is the point of the film? Herein lies the problem as I was entertained while watching Chappie, but took away my fair share of issues with it as well as not particularly liking large chunks of it. Full review here. C

Run All Night is one of those fractured tales. The ones where each individual element is suspect to have greater implications than we might recognize upon introduction. The ones where we know how things must go and yet it is still able to somehow deviate from expectations allowing for the core proceedings of the familiar story to feel fresh. In essence, Run All Night feels much like a perfect storm of ideas and contributions from parties that have a similar goal in mind while each bringing something unique to the table. Obviously the biggest of these contributing factors is the presence of star Liam Neeson. Neeson has made a habit of annually presenting us with a run of the mill action flick that revels in B-movie territory and can be rather hit or miss, but most of the time are entertaining enough. I despise the Taken sequels yet have enjoyed his collaborations with Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown, Non-Stop) as well as his excursions with Joe Carnahan (The Grey) and Scott Frank (A Walk Among the Tombstones), respectively. And while Neeson may still do his best work when he shows how eclectic he can be (The LEGO Movie) I always look forward to what his collaborations with Collet-Serra have to offer. Compared to their previous efforts Run All Night is much less mainstream and more in the vein of a different era. Whereas Unknown and Non-Stop were both polished and perfected to squarely fit into a genre Run All Night is dirty and grimy and while it fits into a certain type of genre, it doesn't necessarily adhere to any one set of expectations. Expectations are key with this type of film though and I realize that. Call it what you will, whether it be that we have tapered expectations for these Liam Neeson actioners now or that this is a case of the film being so much better than the initial black sheep facade it was presented to us with that I'm over-compensating; either way, I really enjoyed myself as I sat and witnessed Neeson get more even than he's ever gotten before and might even call the film pretty great if it holds up under future viewings (which will definitely happen). Full review here. B

The Lazarus Effect feels like it should be a cheap horror film. It appeared at the end of February, there wasn't much of a marketing scheme and it tops out at a brisk hour and twenty-three minutes. With those factors taken into consideration I wondered what might have drawn the likes of talent such as Olivia Wilde and Mark Duplass to the project not to mention a supporting cast that includes Evan Peters and Donald Glover. There had to be a little something more to this if not for names of this stature to get involved, but for the fact these names usually represent some kind of interesting tendencies. Duplass especially, as not only does the guy star in an outright hilarious sitcom, but has written, directed and starred in more than a handful of very indie-feeling films that generally receive good reviews. So, what was it about this very obvious-looking genre film that made it acceptable for each of these actors to dip out of their known niche and into something that might otherwise come off a little second-rate? Well, for starters there is the fact it comes to us courtesy of director David Gelb who made Jiro Dreams of Sushi which was a rather acclaimed documentary four years ago and was co-penned by Jeremy Slater who was picked up to write the Fantastic Four re-boot for Josh Trank. Coming at the film from this more optimistic perspective one can see early on what the attraction might have been for the actors. Most who come to the art form of acting likely have more consistent existential crises than the majority of us and The Lazarus Effect gets the point across fairly quickly that it wants to mess around with some big questions whether it is ready for the big answers or not. There is discussion about the after-life, metaphoric implications of what exists after we die as represented by the lives we lead as well as good ol' talk about the precautions of playing God in a laboratory. The good thing is there is plenty of interesting topics to latch onto, the bad is that the film doesn't give itself room to breathe and really explore any of its topics much less focus on a main thought. Full review here. C

What is Vince Vaughn doing with his time? Was making Delivery Man such a great experience and one that ultimately garnered him the profits and adulation he so desires that he thought following it up with another collaboration with the director was the way to go? He might have had a good time making the movie, sure, and I liked it more than most probably because I still like Vaughn more than most, but if Delivery Man was anything to the public it was an insignificant comedy that has already been forgotten and it isn't hard to see the same fate happening to this second collaboration between the actor and Ken Scott. Unfinished Business is a comedy you'd hardly recognize as such because it feels so half-baked, but regardless I can't help but to feel Vaughn is giving it his all here despite having to know that the story is paper thin and his supporting characters (sans Dave Franco) are a far cry from those he once surrounded himself with in Swingers and Wedding Crashers. Much like Adam Sandler, Vaughn has become a comedian no one expects much from anymore, but continue to tolerate because he has a relatability factor and is inherently charming with his fast-talking comedic style endearing him to many who now try to resist. It would be easy to go the contrarian route with a movie like Unfinished Business due to the fact there is a semblance of something more at the core of this fluff, but it is all too half-assed and slight to actually be anything of note. Not only is this a movie that fails to be entertaining half of the time, but it offers nothing new or insightful in terms of corporate America, the working class or even the stiff that has been so spread thin he forgets to stop and appreciate the good things in life that Vaughn has now played a total number of I've lost count he's done it so much. I want to like what Vaughn does with his precious time and I want to trust (like I do with Sandler) that he wants to be better than this; that he craves to create something substantial in a comedy that truly brings a smile to peoples faces that they continue to quote for years after its release, but what he's doing lately with his time seems to be little more than wasting it on dreck like this. Full review here. D

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