On DVD & Blu-Ray: April 26, 2016

The first Ride Along movie came out a little over two years ago. I saw that movie in theaters opening weekend, but admittedly haven't returned to the film and never felt any desire to do so (there are much better Kevin Hart comedies out there if you need to fill your Hart quota). Going into Ride Along 2 I attempted to conjure up some type of memory of that first film, but other than the basic premise I had nothing. I couldn't even recall enough to know where they might go with things in this sequel. As it turns out, and if I remember correctly, not much has changed. Hart is basically still at security guard status in terms of how Ice Cube thinks of him and the whole point of the endeavor this time around is so that Hart's rather ignorant and annoying character might prove himself good enough to be a detective rather than simply a police officer. The effort put into story here is almost insulting as writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi (two of the four original screenwriters) essentially throw a bunch of clichés at us while having Hart's character try and comment on how clichéd they are by correlating them to the Grand Theft Auto-like video game that he's obsessed with. If you're wondering, yes, playing video games along with the online persona he's created in "Black Hammer" are the biggest character developments of Hart's character that we get. As for Cube, he sticks with the same, stern attitude that hates to put up with his partner's incessant talking, but is somehow okay with the guy marrying his sister and being a part of his life for the foreseeable future. It is this daunting thought that gives way to the epiphany of allowing Hart's Ben Barber to accompany his James Peyton to Miami for what is supposed to be a quick trip to obtain and question a witness. Of course, things don't go as planned and bigger crimes are connected to even bigger crime bosses and thus-you know what beats this thing is going to hit and where it's going from the beginning. Full review here. D

Life is complicated. Even more so in the old west. Natalie Portman's passion project, Jane Got A Gun, wants to remind us of this and ultimately that what we perceive as good and bad aren't as easy to differentiate between as most would like to believe. What was even more complicated though, was the long and tumultuous road it took to get this project to the big screen. After several pre-production delays that included original director Lynne Ramsey exiting the project on the same day shooting was scheduled to begin it was difficult to see how the film might come out unscathed. Pair this with the exit of star Jude Law and a roster of other actors including Bradley Cooper coming in and out for the role that was finally filled by Ewan McGregor and you have what is sure to be nothing short of a downright catastrophe. Eventually though, director Gavin O'Connor (Warrior) took over the reins and enlisted the help of his Warrior star Joel Edgerton to what now, having seen the film, is a wholly serviceable and often times even compelling western that hardly shows any of the scars it garnered along the way. From a story and script originally crafted by Brian Duffield (Insurgent) it seems that once O'Connor was brought on board he utilized both Edgerton (a writer and director himself) and Warrior screenwriter Anthony Tambakis to punch up the script and it is here where we find the first of many things to admire about the film. From the opening moments, set in dusty 1871 New Mexico, as Portman's titular Jane tells her daughter a bedtime story it is made clear the position of the three main characters in the story and where they fall into the plot while not making it clear where they might fall into one another's lives. This structuring of mystery around each of our main characters and their past and how they might intertwine with one another is what hooks the audience and while the first twenty or so minutes may seem to drag and ostensibly be vague for no other purpose than being vague the film hits its stride within the first half hour and from there it briskly unravels a heartbreaking narrative of love, loss, and the will to do what it takes to keep on keepin' on. Full review here. C+

There is hardly an utterance of dialogue in Son of Saul so the fact it is a foreign film should matter little. Sure, there are subtitles and one must pay close attention if they are to grasp the full impact of the film at large, but simply taken on the images it projects the film is an unnerving achievement. From the opening, uninterrupted shot that follows our titular prisoner through one of the more horrific experiences one could ever imagine comprehending there is a bleak, but gripping nature to the film. One that, despite any caution the viewer might feel given the circumstances of the film and its Holocaust subject matter, is worth witnessing. What is at first a look inside the horrific daily routine of what were referred to as "Sonderkommando's" quickly becomes a story of one man in particular wrestling with the internal conflict of being forced to commit terrible acts while at the same time dealing with the torment of his own persecution. Saul is the harbinger of his own, inevitable death in many ways and it is through the desperate act that the film chronicles that a type of quest for redemption is attempted so that he may not only atone for the daily injustices to human life that he is going along with, but that he might somehow feel a purpose one last time in this existence the Nazi's have all but forced out of him. Son of Saul is, at the same time, both a simple film in that it once again portrays the appalling nature of how we can treat one another through the events of the Holocaust while naturally being a very complex and layered piece of filmmaking due to those same aforementioned factors. Most thoughts having to do with what people were forced to deal with when it comes to Auschwitz are easier to deal with when pushed to the back of one's mind, but Son of Saul puts these crimes against humanity front and center and forces the audience to feel the immense complications of having to do nothing more than follow the commands of your captors while simultaneously dealing with how those orders make you hate yourself and the world/time you live in. Full review here. B

December is always a crazy busy month in and of itself never mind all the movies being released that month and one I simply never caught up with was director Michael Dougherty's (Trick 'r Treat) latest, Krampus. The film, about a boy who has a bad Christmas and ends up accidentally summoning a Christmas demon to his family home, looked to be a fun bit of B-movie horror and while the reviews seems to have been rather mixed I'm still excited to see what the film holds. In short, I'll be watching it soon. If not tonight, definitely this weekend.

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