On DVD & Blu-Ray: August 25, 2015

Aloha is a strange bird. From the opening credits laid out over vintage footage from Hawaiian celebrations to the music of Hanohano Hanalei there is a sense of slapdash to it. Given this is a Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous) film there is a sense of expectation to it, but more than anything he's done over the past ten years Aloha immediately feels more free-wheeling. From the outset we get the sense not of Crowe's writing style, but more the dedication of the actors to the defining characteristics and personalities of their characters. The films lead is entrusted to one of our few bankable movie stars in Bradley Cooper whose Brian Gilcrest was nearly killed in a bombing while serving in Afghanistan and now has trouble with both legs. Gilcrest's jaded and cynical outlook will no doubt serve as the catalyst to be shifted over the course of the film. We are quickly introduced to a roster of familiar faces that are equally defined lending to the thought that this could really be something special. There is Emma Stone's Allison Ng who exudes a hyper-strictness to military conduct while at the same time being blunt and a somewhat over-eager in her latest assignment that includes Gilcrest. There is the old flame Gilcrest has tried to forget since losing her to himself as personified by Rachel McAdams. McAdams ends up coming away with the most emotionally resonant performance of the bunch as it is clear she is anxious to not necessarily reconnect with her former lover, but more get some things off her chest that need to removed in order for her to move on. This weight has certainly interfered in her marriage to Woody (John Krasinski) who fully embodies the "strong and silent type". Woody is resistant to change and he knows it, but the time has come to face it when Gilcrest returns to what is Woody's cozy little Mayberry military base in Hawaii. Then you have Bill Murray playing some billionaire technology developer who's looking to buy all he can. Murray is the not-so-wise old man that pretends to have the perspective, but really just has the deep pockets. With all of this going on and all these likable people breathing life into Crowe's quirky dialogue one has to wonder how the film can't at least be appealing or even charming. The fact of the matter is that it actually kind of is despite ever being able to lift the cloud of peculiar that hovers above it. Full review here. C+

If Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's (The Kid with a Bike) latest film says anything it is in reinforcing the well-worn idea that everyone has a story. At a brisk hour and a half the Dardenne brothers have written and directed a film that not only gives Marion Cotillard a platform for a meek and quiet lead performance, but they've also opened the flood gates for empathy and examining how selfish or caring individuals can be. This is, of course, all based around what the individuals can lose or gain from the given circumstances and in the case of Sandra (Cotillard), a young Belgian mother, it is that of discovering her co-workers have opted for a significant pay bonus in exchange for her dismissal. In only one weekend she is forced to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses so that she might keep her job. More than having lost her job though, Sandra suffers from something of a deeper depression. She is hesitant to even approach these people she apparently works alongside on a daily basis as there is a stilted nature to the interactions she knows she has to have despite genuinely not wanting to ask them for a favor that will put them in as difficult a position as she's been placed. It is a burden that strains, but more it is the mentality of Sandra that is most important that we understand otherwise the film wouldn't work. I suspect this is why Cotillard received such rave reviews because just as Sandra feels an insurmountable amount of empathy for her co-workers we need to feel the same amount of sympathy for our protagonist and Cotillard is able to command that with her performance. What Two Days, One Night does best is tap into the basic human element of what we, as a human race, will do-the lengths we'll got to in order to make each others stories as pleasant as possible. It naturally touches on what we won't do depending on the extent of how it will effect our own lives and in the end if what is done is what we can manage while still keeping ourselves in mind or simply enough to feel good with ourselves. The premise the Dardenne's employ allows us to see a wide spectrum of humanity and while it is an interesting and fine enough film it is just that with little more to lend it an exceptional tone other than maybe Cotillard's performance, but even that feels minimally appropriate for the small story being told. B-

The Best Documentary winner at this years Academy Awards, Citizenfour, finally makes it's way onto home video this week. I saw the film last fall, but never got around to writing a review for it and while it may not serve the validity of my word very well I would say it was a solid documentary without being able to recall many of the specifics. I remember it being fascinating, certainly, considering the access that was given at the time all of these events were actually happening. And to be able to have it documented this well is just further proof of how much more accessible documentaries will be to their actual subjects from this point on now that everyone has a camera in their pocket (see AMY). While we will see the dramatized and fictionalized version of these events this fall with Oliver Stone's Snowden it is certainly worth one's time to give this doc a look first, especially if you're not familiar with the details around this situation.  

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