On DVD & Blu-Ray: November 10, 2015


After the one-two punch of Rise of the Machines and Salvation it's unclear who exactly was clamoring for more Terminator films, but Arnold Schwarzenegger's career clearly called for a boost and so here we are. It is easy to be cynical, but it's difficult to let go and embrace an entity for what it might be regardless of the strings attached and the fifth film in the Terminator franchise certainly had some heavy strings attached to it. From the moment the title was revealed with its misspelled subheading there has been something of a backlash towards the film, an inherent feeling that whatever this could be it would really only be little more than a cash grab and excuse to reinvigorate it's stars dwindling career. The trailers, posters and overall spoiler-heavy promotional campaign did little to boost any kind of confidence in the final product and only added to the complete lack of interest on my part as the expectations really couldn't have been much lower. Given that environment I came away from Terminator Genisys rather surprised at how much I enjoyed myself. This brings us to the question of if a movie can be entertaining without necessarily being what we might typically consider "good"? As far as director Alan "Thor: The Dark World" Taylor is concerned it seems he thinks so as he has again crafted a cookie-cutter studio film that follows the template of any other action film and, if nothing else, creates an entertaining film that I was able to consistently have fun with as it continued to defy my expectations of not actually being horrible. The real tragedy of the project is that there might have actually been more to tap into here. With the two listed screenwriters being Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island, Alexander) and Patrick Lussier (Drive Angry) the expectations are again leveraged due to the somewhat bad quality of many of their credentials, but it's clear a lot of thought and planning was put into re-tooling the storylines of the first two films so that Arnold's T-800 might have a more substantial role and so Paramount might launch another trilogy of films. The problem is, the film never utilizes the social commentary or ideas around mortality that it touches on sporadically to be anything more interesting than a two-hour sizzle reel of action scenes. Full review here. C+

Judd Apatow is something of an enigma due to his seeming omnipotence over the comedy world in television and film. In truth though, he's only made five feature films and directed a handful of TV episodes for series he had a hand in creating. I understand the complaints lodged against Apatow and his comedies, but regardless I'm a big fan of his. In a strange way, Apatow seems to want to do with comedy what Christopher Nolan is doing with mainstream blockbusters. His movies are large in length, deep in character and entrusted with themes bigger than just those intended to make people laugh. Apatow is telling human stories and including the humor so often involved, but so difficult to naturally convey. To capture the genuine way we exchange laughs and cultivate jokes through piles of conversation and inside references is no easy task, but Apatow is attempting to crack this the best he knows how and, if nothing else, he should be applauded for the effort. Apatow wants to make comedy as epic and cutting to others as it is to him. While his last two features (Funny People and This is 40) didn't receive the warm critical reception of his first two (The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up) I couldn't help but feel I understood the journey he was on and the goal he was trying to reach. With his latest, Trainwreck, Apatow has ventured into new territory which is likely for the best when considering his career trajectory while simultaneously keeping his legacy intact. Trainwreck, though, doesn't feel like an Apatow film. This is due to the fact that it really isn't. Trainwreck is an Amy Schumer film through and through and there is nothing wrong with that, but any seasoned comedy director could have delivered this product. This is Apatow's first feature directing gig where he didn't also write the script and the lack of investment becomes apparent. Beginning with a shot that elicits the quality of the photographs produced in the early eighties I imagined we were going to get a full throttle collaboration between two solid, comedic minds that understand perception and honesty to the point of delivering it in a funny manner. The comedy isn't the problem, the characters aren't an issue and the story is fine for what it is, but the directing seems to default to autopilot rather quickly so as to competently document The Amy Schumer Show. Apatow let's Schumer take the reigns and doesn't infuse the project with his own flavor, making him feel more like a director for hire than a collaborator. Full review here. B-

What do you say when everything you've just witnessed is as down the middle as you could imagine? There was an undercurrent of suspicion, hope, and possibility given the sheltered release date that strove to place Self/less as alternative programming. It seemed, if nothing else, like a safe action bet in the vein of Safe House to mainstream movie-goers with added credentials of Ben Kingsley and director Tarsem Singh (The Fall, Immortals) for those more invested in current cinema. Singh is known for insane and typically crazily creative visuals, but all of those touches are for the most part absent here as Ryan Reynolds tries once again to prove that he can be good in a dramatic role. Ultimately, we are taken through a few action beats and little more. When the most unique aspect of a Singh picture is some of its editing choices, one has to wonder what brought him to the project and what made him choose this traditional and standard approach to the material rather than adding his own flourishes. Whatever the reasoning might have been, what the director delivers with the final product is a perfectly fine piece of entertainment that operates in the sci-fi/action genre but does little to expound on it's rather interesting premise. It eventually devolves into a series of chase scenes. The first hour or so of the film had me going along with it as we are given the outline for the somewhat complicated main idea. What would you do if we were able to manufacture immortality? The question is posed up front and in our main character falling victim to the possibilities of such promises Singh expertly paces (again, thanks to some nice editing choices) the first half of the film to methodically execute the questions that would naturally arise around such power. Singh then sets up the possible avenues for where the remainder of the film might go. It is the choice of writers David and Alex Pastor to go the route of the bad guys hunting down their rogue experiment that damns the film from becoming more than just that middle of the road movie. Self/less certainly had potential but out of nothing more than laziness and wanting to avoid more complicated, thought-provoking territory that potential was squandered on a film that will be easily forgotten. Full review here. C

There have been countless iterations of Sherlock Holmes over the years, but prior to this films release I'd not heard of Mitch Cullins interpretation of the world's greatest detective. At first glance, Mr. Holmes seems like one of those ideas that is better left as an idea rather than the likely failure to meet expectations result that would come from trying to make it a reality. What might actually be so fascinating about an older detective who can hardly remember his glory days let alone how he made his reputation? The possibilities are certainly intriguing, but the execution could be questionable given what one takes from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's works to inform the state of an elderly Holmes. Having not read Cullins book on which this is based, I don't know how much credit to give director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls), but by not simply telling another story revolving around a mystery the film starts off on the right foot. As the film plays out we see a mystery element incorporated in the form of flashbacks to Holmes' final case with which he is having trouble completely recalling. These flashbacks are more or less used to both create reason for why Holmes chose the course he did for his later years while also reminding him of a throughline theme by which he intended to live out the rest of his years. Solving the mystery of his forgotten case also incorporates the only way Holmes truly knows how to live and how to deal with getting older and facing death. By both incorporating these aspects, but keeping the film more focused on the man rather than the mystery the film seems to capture the only possibility that could make this type of story appealing without being completely depressing. There are themes of regret throughout that I can only imagine will be more resonant with a second viewing, but on a first pass still strike one as heartbreakingly honest. I say this because Mr. Holmes is as much about preserving the thoughts and correct legacy of one's life as it is making amends for the mistakes in one's life by passing on what they've learned to a younger generation so that they may not encounter the same regrets. The strong conveyance of these ideas are made largely possible through two wonderful lead performances in Ian McKellen and newcomer Milo Parker. Full review here. B-

Tangerine is a film that created a lot of buzz for itself after it's Sundance premiere and the reveal that it was shot entirely on three iPhone 5s phones. As the film never opened in my neck of the woods I haven't had a chance to screen it yet, but am certainly intrigued by this tidbit alone. The film itself concerns a working girl who tears through Tinseltown on Christmas Eve searching for the pimp who broke her heart.