On DVD & Blu-Ray: January 12, 2016

It's weird. With everything The Martian has going on and going for it you'd think it might be more of a straightforward action film, but rather this is a movie about problem solving. Problem solving in the cheesy sense of never giving up, but legitimate in that our protagonists circumstances have him stranded on Mars. These days, one almost goes into a Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator) picture with the expectation of receiving something handsome without necessarily having any sustenance and that reaction has been warranted over the last few years (Prometheus has it's lovers and it's haters, but I'm in the former camp). What makes The Martian different than say Robin Hood, The Counselor or even Exodus though is that it once again sets the director up in what seems to be his most comfortable and inspiring setting: space. In going back to the cosmos, the director does his own problem solving and dives head first into his grand new science fiction film by embracing every aspect that makes up this story. Whether that be in the Mars-based segments with Matt Damon's astronaut Mark Watney or on Earth at the various NASA headquarters with engaging intellects like Chewitel Ejiofor and Jeff Daniels. Beyond having rounded up a stellar cast Scott has more or less crafted his most entertaining film in years by really seeming passionate about the material. Of course, rather than space, this could be the reason all of his films taking place out of our planet's orbit tend to generally turn out for the best. Scott is an explorer, a man who likes his scope large and his stories fairly bombastic. What bigger canvas is there to paint on than space? Full review here. B

In Woody Allen's annual mid-year release we have a typical, late-era Woody Allen film that is more shrug-worthy than anything since the two forgettable cushions on either side of 2011's Midnight in Paris. Every few years the insanely consistent writer/director will deliver something more substantial, something truly affecting, but more times than not we get something akin to what we have this year in Irrational Man. Since becoming rather invested in the art of watching films I have returned to the essential Allen in order to be hip to my craft (Annie Hall, Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters), but I've probably been reading about Allen's films since Small Time Crooks (2000) and seeing them in theaters since Paris (2011). Since I've been catching them on a regular basis in their theatrical run though, I've only purchased two that I felt were worth revisiting those being Paris and 2013's Blue Jasmine. It's hard to find much motivation to return to Allen's films because they each more or less offer the same things. There is some philosophizing about a certain area of life under a certain set of character induced circumstances that typically ends up dealing with existentialism in one way or another. This type of conversation and discussion can certainly be interesting, but because of these tendencies Allen's films themselves are more interesting to talk about than they are to actually experience. It's hard to even call Allen's films an experience as they are more lectures than anything else, but every once in a while you actually take something away from them. With Irrational Man though, the only things I took away were that Emma Stone is in fact Allen's latest muse and that Joaquin Phoenix is trying really hard to let us know he put on a pot belly for this role (admittedly among other, deeper things). Whether the point of Phoenix's character being a philosophy professor signals Allen is getting one step closer to just sitting down and filming himself talk for an hour and half on a certain subject, we'll have to wait and see, but more than any time over the last four years I felt like time and age were beginning to catch up the auteur. Full review here. D+

The Stanford Prison Experiment is a film I've heard a lot about and plan to see very soon. Starring a who's who of young male talent in Hollywood that includes Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), Tye Sheridan (Mud), Michael Angarano (Sky High), Ki Hong Lee (The Maze Runner films), Moises Arias (Ender's Game, The Kings of Summer), Nicholas Braun (The Poltergeist), Gaius Charles (Friday Night Lights), Keir Gilchrist (It Follows), Thomas Mann (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), Logan Miller (Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse) and Johnny Simmons (Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World) the film is about twenty-four male students out of seventy-five who were selected to take on randomly assigned roles of prisoners and guards in a mock prison situated in the basement of the Stanford psychology building.

Another film I missed while out of town for the Toronto International Film Festival was this sequel to Adam Sandler's 2012's animated smash, Hotel Transylvania. While I more or less enjoyed the first film for what it was there was no need for a sequel other than to make a little more money and that seems to be exactly what Columbia Pictures did as Hotel Transylvania 2 outgrossed its predecessor on both opening weekend and in lifetime grosses. I don't know that I feel any urgency to see this sequel, but I'm sure I'll end up doing so one day.

Another sequel I didn't end up catching last year based simply on the horrible word of mouth it received and the fact my wife and I really adore the first film and wanted to see this one together (a thing that can be difficult to do when you have a nine month-old). While I'm certainly weary of Sinister 2 given the scathing reviews it received as well as the fact it wasn't directed by original helmer Scott Derrickson (who's moved on to bigger things such as Doctor Strange) I'm still curious and I imagine I'll end up renting this one at some point this week so the wife and I can catch up with it after the baby is down for the night.

And yet another horror sequel I didn't see last Halloween because, well, who cares anymore? The Paranormal Activity series more than ran its course by the time the spin-off The Marked Ones arrived in theaters at the beginning of 2014, but by late last year the attempt to return to the original timeline of the fourth film that hadn't been talked about for nearly three years had long been missed. Paramount's deal to distribute the film to digital providers after it dropped below a certain theater count didn't help matters either as many large theater chains refused to even screen the film and so with a limited theatrical run and hardly any buzz the once pinnacle of found footage horror films went out with a whimper. That said, I'll undoubtedly see The Ghost Dimension sooner or later because I'd like some closure to a series I once enjoyed, but any anticipation that once came along with each installment has long since faded.    

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