On DVD & Blu-Ray: January 19, 2016

Just to give some perspective on where this particular review is coming from, I was born in 1987. By this time the likes of Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, MC Ren, and DJ Yella were already beginning to make waves in their home town of Compton, CA. In just a little over a years time these five individuals, collectively known as N.W.A, would release their seminal record that shares it's title with the groups new biopic, Straight Outta Compton. Naturally, I wouldn't come to be familiar with either N.W.A or what impact they had on popular culture until much later despite my dad schooling me and my siblings on his favorite old school hip hop records in the early nineties. As I turned into a teenager at the turn of the millennium if I had any connection to Ice Cube it was more for his movie career than anything else while Dr. Dre was having his resurgence (at least from where I was sitting) with 2001 and the discovery that was Eminem. It wasn't until I matured a little further that it became more vital for me to understand a wider range of musical knowledge that would help me comprehend what informed the music I was currently enjoying. Attending a middle school and junior high at the time that contained as many black students as it did white kids like myself, there was an interesting mix of cultures to be observed. One could never hope to comprehend the full extent of other peoples lives due to the circumstances into which they were born, but listening to the same type of music didn't hurt in attempting to at least glean a surface-level understanding of where others were coming from. As myself and my brothers would come to have an increased level of interest in music (especially the funk of the seventies that our mom would listen to) the world became a clearer place where it was easier to figure out where you might fit into the grand scheme of things. Going through what had come before my birth date one inevitably comes across N.W.A and through their lyrics alone is able to gather not only where they were coming from at the time of their emergence, but what influence they've had since. And so, I came at Straight Outta Compton as an individual who wasn't able to experience the initial impact of this group, but who finally is able to bear witness to it through the magic of the movies. Full review here. A

Like it's titular mountain, Everest the film is a vast beast of an adventure. More than anything, director Baltasar Kormákur (Contraband, 2 Guns) gives the film a strong foundation on which to stand and a sense of adventure going forward that is more than enough to make up for what can sometimes feel like a slim narrative. That is, of course, until the film reaches its last half hour in which it feels like it has to rush to resolve every plot strand it has set up for its large ensemble cast. That said, the film is more than a solid venture into one of the most dangerous places on earth that people dare to go which brings us to the real heart of the film. Without the crux of why each of these individuals wanted or were willing to risk their lives for a reward that, for some, could be viewed as senseless is what provides the anchor of the audiences investment. There are plenty of ways in which Kormákur could have chosen to approach this set-up that was primed perfectly for little more than a tense, action spectacle, but at its heart this is a human story. And so, the fact Kormákur and writers William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy have essentially made both a rousing testament to the human spirit and a devastatingly brutal film that delivers the man versus nature psychology to an unflinching degree is admirable. In many ways, Everest doesn't purport to be anything more than a straightforward documentation of this true story that occurred in 1996 when a team of thrill-seekers attempted to scale Mt. Everest, but it can't help but to be about more given the grand themes that life naturally brings down upon us when we're stranded in desperate situations and have nothing else to turn to but our thoughts and memories. Kormákur largely tackles the positive aspects of this kind of adventure and way of thinking in the first half of the film before everything goes south and the darker side of these risks are exposed. Full review here. B-

I always tend to enjoy Nancy Meyers movies and so I was rather bummed when I never found time to check out her latest after returning from the Toronto International Film Festival. Considering this received rather glowing reviews I was even more anxious to check out the film, but alas it never happened. Given Robert De Niro has a new film coming out this week it is no wonder we see his late summer effort that co-stars Anne Hathaway arriving on department store shelves now. The Intern tells the story of De Niro's Ben Whittaker who has discovered that retirement isn't all it's cracked up to be. Seizing an opportunity to get back in the game, he becomes a senior intern at an online fashion site, founded and run by Jules Ostin (Hathaway).

I never watched the Jem and the Holograms TV show when I was younger as it came and went before I was really watching many cartoons, but when the first trailer for this live-action adaptation premiered back in May those fans who did watch the cartoon did not seem happy. There was an immediate backlash about the modernization of this story that once concerned itself with music company owner Jerrica Benton and her singer alter-ego and the action adventures she'd go on with her band and was now transformed into the story of a small-town girl who catapults from underground video sensation to global superstar. Even from the outside there seemed to be little relation between the two and when the film finally was released the $5 million production opened with just $1.315m on 2,413 screens or the fourth-lowest opening for a film opening on more than 2,000 screens. It's total lifetime gross both domestically and worldwide only reached $2.255m and so I'm unsure who will actually be picking this up on home video formats, but I can't say I'm really compelled to see how or why this turned out so poorly.

I wasn't exactly taken by the trailers for The Diary of a Teenage Girl as it looked like every independent/Sundance cliché culminated in a single film and so I didn't make a huge effort to see it when it showed up in my city for a limited engagement run. Then, a strange thing happened, and it started showing up on many peoples end of year top ten lists and I became more curious as to what the appeal might be. That said, I'm interested to check this one out more than ever now and plan on doing just so this weekend.

Another of these inspirational football movies based on true stories that seemed to get lost in the shuffle with the likes of My All American last fall, Woodlawn stars Sean Astin cashing in on his Rudy cred as well as Jon Voight in this story about a gifted high school football player who must learn to embrace his talent and his faith as he battles racial tensions on and off the field. Based on the true story of Tony Nathan who desegregated from his high school along with several other black athletes after a government mandate, the film takes place in Birmingham, Alabama in 1973 as cross burnings and riots erupt in the city. Of course, the film has a strong faith-based facet to it and unfortunately that looks (at least in the trailers) to make the film seem as cheesy as that genre classification typically indicates.

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