On DVD & Blu-Ray: November 24, 2015


One would assume that with it's generic title, release date and desperate seeming casting that No Escape would probably be pretty terrible. The indicators all align and are partially right, no doubt, as the grungy look of the movie suggests it won't be a pretty picture figuratively or literally. The glaring reason the film stands up to a serious questioning of quality though is the fact director John Erick Dowdle and his co-writer brother, Drew, only have three prior credits to their name, all of which are considered rather sub-par horror flicks (though I rather enjoyed Devil and haven't seen As Above, So Below). The Dowdle's approached No Escape not with the eyes of their honed horror mentalities though, but with that of their teen action fantasies they no doubt devoured in the eighties. Granted, we're still talking about the rather generic action movies of that decade, but campy and somewhat solid action movies nonetheless. No Escape has plenty to offer when it comes to tension and thrills and even wants to bring itself to hint at something more in certain spots, but is instead swallowed up by the fact there is no context for the situations we see play out and no weight to the simple consequences put into effect. Run or die is the name of the game and the literal nameless Asian villains do little to make us feel as if there is any validity to the scenarios our protagonists find themselves in. Rather, we are dropped into the middle of this civil war where the strictly labeled bad guys march around and murder hundreds of people execution style. We aren't privy to the information of who is or isn't safe until about halfway through the film when a half-hearted attempt at exposition is laid out for us, but by that point we know what No Escape is heading towards no matter how tense it might make us at certain times. That said, this is a film that strangely enough had a strong affect on me as I was watching it, but is one I never have any desire to sit through again. Full review here. C

American Ultra is fine. It is somewhat ambitious and somewhat derivative, but most of the time it plays things right down the middle and offers little more than we expect. It is subtly silly, not laugh out loud hilarious though it maintains it's ridiculousness throughout given it's honest with itself and well aware of what it is. In short, the film is a trivial exercise in triviality given it makes light of typically serious subjects such as secret agents and government operations, but will never be seen as more than a tiny blip on the pop culture radar. This is no crime against humanity as those who have even a modicum of interest in something akin to this will likely give it a shot while those who don't, won't and are not really missing out on much. Sure, American Ultra has it's redeemers, but none are strong enough to qualify it for a recommendation and while I sat watching the film, both amused and bemused for much of the time strangely enough, I couldn't help but to think how inconsequential it all felt. I didn't actively dislike the film, in fact I was more than happy to sit down and watch both Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart again as I've come to really enjoy Adventureland more and more over the years, but never throughout the course of experiencing this film did I find myself invested in any aspect of what was happening. It's almost as if the film is so trivial that it's not even worth saying much about it, but that would be to diminish the solid qualities and obvious heart that has gone into creating the product and I genuinely hate to minimize that effort to less than it is. Whether it be in the inherent chemistry between our two leads, the strong supporting cast that is selling the mess out of this outlandish material or the rather deft tone of the film as a whole there are certainly selling points and things to enjoy. The problem is, that deft quality seems to be one the film owes more to it's script than to it's director and some of that intended mentality was lost in translation. Full review here. C+

Meryl Streep's latest is something of an oddity. It is difficult to see the sixty-six year-old, Academy Award-winning actress as a lover of 60's and 70's rock and roll who never gave up her dream of joining that world. It isn't that Streep can't pull it off (please, what can't she do?), it's just a strange sight to behold and watch unfold. Decked out in gaudy jewelry from her ears to every finger and even more excessively around her neck, she is a nightmare for airport security. She swoops her thinning hair to one side with the rest braided so as to elicit a steaming punk persona. She wears lots of black and a lot of leather and hates to go anywhere without her guitar. While the typically regal persona we see from Streep certainly doesn't correspond with what we see in Ricki there is something to be said for this unorganized, irresponsible and blatantly selfish person that chose one dream over another. Written by Diablo Cody (Juno, Young Adult) and directed by Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia) Ricki and the Flash is more a movie about the state of the American family than it is one about a failed singer. The trailers would have you believe this is something of a slight piece of melodrama that would be just as (if not more) suitable for the Lifetime network than your local multiplex, but it's clear from the moment things get a little more intense concerning Ricki's daughter (Streep's real-life daughter, Mamie Gummer) that this isn't simply a familial drama with fun interludes of Streep singing classic rock. No, Ricki and the Flash is indeed a more subtle and intricate commentary on topics largely relatable to the casual audience member. Sure, you may could see the conventions that the film works within from a mile away, but the seasoned cast sells it and the inspired moments of writing in certain scenes combined with Demme's assured direction make for an enjoyable and rather affecting experience. Full review here. B-