On DVD & Blu-Ray: October 13, 2015


There was the suspicion going into the latest from director Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol) that Tomorrowland would harbor some core mystery that was too great or too big to be revealed in the marketing and that the secrets it held within its narrative structure would not only set it apart from the onslaught of grim, dystopian tales we've received over the last few years, but bring back the fascination of childhood that was present when we truly experienced something wonderful. After seeing the film, I'm not sure what they were talking about or even trying to hide. I guess I shouldn't necessarily be surprised given the sole screenwriting credit outside of Bird is given to Damon Lindelof (Lost) who enjoys asking questions and letting the audience explore possible answers more than actually supplying solutions himself. That aside, Tomorrowland is not without spectacle and strong ideas. In fact, there is a lot to like about Tomorrowland as the first two-thirds of the film whizz by and build exposition and intrigue in interesting ways. Offering up an intertwining tale of two people separated by time with equally innovative minds that make the film an attempt to discuss, while not necessarily plot out, why the world has become such a dark place. By preaching the message it does the film inherently makes any critic who discusses the negative aspects of it feel like a part of the problem it is attempting to address. Smart move by Lindelof, but that doesn't make me feel bad enough about myself to keep me from recognizing the shortcomings of Tomorrowland's third act. Unfortunately, I had somewhat high expectations going in given the minds behind the film were ones I admire and the opportunity to see Bird's fresh, retro-futuristic style in full-on live action was beyond enticing. With Tomorrowland though, Bird has crafted his first sub-par film, which is naturally disappointing, but more than that it clearly has so much ambition and so many possible roads to travel that it might have been truly something had the final product lived up to its vision rather than becoming part of the trend it's criticizing. Full review here. C

Given the texture of the special effects and the scope of the aerial shots one would not be wrong in thinking Roland Emmerich was at the helm of this latest, big disaster flick. Emmerich, who has directed the likes of Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012, has somewhat monopolized the genre as of late, but San Andreas isn't the unrelated sequel to Day After Tomorrow where Emmerich follows another group of people as they deal with another cataclysmic event. Instead, San Andreas is more the love child of something Emmerich would make and the pure, star-driven action adventures of the 80's and early 90's. While you might say those could easily be one in the same Emmerich's films are typically more of an ensemble whereas San Andreas is Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's film through and through. So, if not Emmerich, then who? Well, that honor would go to Brad Peyton who has previously only directed two features, one of which was Journey 2 with Johnson who likely vouched for him here. Being compared to the likes of Emmerich certainly isn't a jab though and if Peyton was going to take notes from anyone when making a disaster flick on this scale he would be the obvious choice. To bring this little precursor of a thought full circle and segue into my overall impression of the film though would be to say that Emmerich would no doubt be proud. Now, what Peyton, his actors and his screenwriter (which, oddly enough, is power producer Carlton Cuse of Lost and Bates Motel fame) have done best with San Andreas is to have fun with the kind of movie it is. Naturally, you get what you expect from a movie like this and little more, but the movie is knowing without being completely self-aware as it seems to intentionally lay on the one-liners the audience already knows are coming and has a fair amount of fun with them. The fact I could hear the people behind me mouthing certain lines before they were even spoke speaks to how ingrained in our subconscious these types of films and their beats are. For San Andreas to be able to include and overcome the cliches and archetypes of the genre to deliver a genuinely fun thrill ride is not necessarily something to celebrate, but it's certainly nothing worth complaining about either. Full review here. C+

Dope is something of an exquisitely stated thesis with the outer shell of a "drug deal gone bad" movie understated by the culture within where this rather typical (for the area and in the movies) excursion occurs. There is an angle that feels like the drug plot in Dope is necessary to make the movie feel more exciting, but that it actually makes this unique take on black culture all the more generic. Director and writer Rick Famuyiwa (The Wood) smartly uses both of these preconceptions to his advantage by allowing the regularity of a drug deal and the race and culture typically related to such going-ons to highlight the point he is intending to make. The main ideas here are simple: to not sell yourself short and to not settle for what's expected of you; seemingly talking as much about one's predestination due to their inherent preferences as he is the color of their skin. That Famuyiwa is able to somewhat blur this line of not simply defining people by their baseball stats, but for the character they display is what he really wants to explore which he does magnificently by cultivating the affinity we all have for nostalgia to display how we tend to believe it was somehow better in someone else's time despite us really knowing the reality was never as pleasant as the high points the pictures paint. There is a whole treasure trove of ideas and concepts within Dope and some are more highlighted than necessarily explored, but Famuyiwa does a solid job of capturing the essence of what is necessary to get his point across here. This essence is as present in the musical stylings chosen to power the movie along as it is the slang verbiage and dated styles that Malcolm (Shameik Moore) and his co-horts rock throughout. Dope is certainly nothing short of an independent-minded take on a subculture that is more than under served, but as a movie it somewhat lacks that definitive spark that actually sets it apart as something exceptional. There is something muddled and incoherent about the way it chooses to lay out its ideas which is odd because I rather enjoyed the freewheeling editing choices, but walking out and considering what I'd taken away from the film it came down more to the broad strokes than the brass tacks when it would seem Malcolm's genius is in the details. Full review here. B-

Disney unleashes it's 1992 mega-hit, Aladdin, on Blu-Ray for the first time today and if you're anywhere near the same age as I am you'll no doubt be picking it up. Obviously, I didn't write about the film when it initially premiered given I was only five, but I couldn't recommend it more. One of my top ten favorite Disney animated films of all time and I can't wait to finally experience it in a pristine presentation (I never saw it in theaters), not to mention the plethora of special features available here. A+

Didn't make it around to The Gallows, but heard it wasn't worth it anyway.