On DVD & Blu-Ray: May 31, 2016

Gods of Egypt is one of those movies that is so bad that even the inherent campiness of it can't make things the slightest bit fun. At the very least, given the extravagance of the visuals and the outlandish reaches director Alex Proyas (I, Robot, Dark City) goes for here I expected the film to be a good ole' slice of pure entertainment value for the sake of nothing else, but even under these minimal expectations Gods of Egypt fails to be anything but conventional; which is saying a lot for a film that has gigantic flying beetles and Egyptian God transformers dismantling one another. There is seemingly no point to the construction of this universe as far as financial reward goes and the idea of whitewashing these ancient mythological idols is the least of the films problems. Sure, we have Gerard Butler, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and Geoffrey Rush all doing variations on their European accents, but none are as distracting as the fully CGI backdrops that look as if they were "completed" in a rush two days before the film's release. Beyond all of the obvious complaints there are to make about this movie though, there was certainly some ambition behind the attempt as well. Unfortunately, these strides end up counting for very little. Still, there are risks taken in the way the Gods are portrayed as being larger and more looming than the mortals who worship them, there is an effort to take the historical context of the film and blend in elements of weird science fiction and fantasy, and the actual world building of this strange universe can be immersive, but more times than not these attempts fail to be what they should be which is cool and/or appealing. Instead, the ugliness of the shiny yet granular images and the fight scenes that look as if they were ripped from a video game circa 2001 reek of a director out of touch and a storyteller too far removed from these adjectives that everything going on here feels as if it's trying too hard to please too broad an audience. Proyas has always been one to try something outside the box or at least be up for going after the unexpected, but with Gods of Egypt there is no amount of CGI that could cover up the scars it leaves. Full review here. Video review here. D

Say what you will, but I've never read Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. That said, I've clearly become familiar with the story over the years and have seen some of the many adaptations namely Joe Wright's 2005 film starring Kiera Knightley. Say what you will, but I did read Seth Grahame-Smith's 2010 novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and kind of loved it, but the 2012 movie adaptation was less than satisfying. Given I knew Grahame-Smith's debut novel would also get the movie treatment I decided not to give it a look with the fact I'd never read Austen's original text also weighing on my decision. And so, going into Pride and Prejudice and Zombies I looked forward to seeing if a film version of one of Grahame-Smith's parody/mashup novels could be turned into an entertaining movie or if it would still be little more than a good idea even without knowing the depth of the original text. Of course, much of Grahame-Smith's novel from which this film is based is apparently text taken directly from the Austen classic only with elements of modern zombie fiction inserted throughout. So, one could say if you know Pride and Prejudice it isn't hard to imagine what Pride and Prejudice and Zombies might be. That's true. It isn't. Strangely enough though, it isn't the fact the story doesn't have to be outrageously creative in order to weave the zombie narrative through it, but more simply how much the movie embraces that aspect. Director Burr Steers (Igby Goes Down, 17 Again) has crafted a film with its tongue planted firmly in its cheek, but does so without ever going too far. Sure, the movie is aware of what it is, but it never becomes a parody of itself in that it goes to certain lengths to highlight its unique premise while never giving cause to laugh at it. In short, the film is cool enough to laugh with us at its absurdities and for that it packs a fun enough punch as far as action/adventure movies go. All in all though, the film is simply decent. While it exudes style at certain points and embraces itself fully that still doesn't necessarily mean it executes itself well and when it comes to following through on the promise of the premise with such spectacle this film version falls short and unfortunately feels rather fatigued by the time we cross the finish line. Full review here. C

Race has good intentions. That is probably the best thing one could say about it which is unfortunate given its subject matter. One hears about the epic talent of Jesse Owens from the time they're in elementary school, when racing one another at recess was just something you did. With this myth and the still spectacular accomplishments Owens achieved as a track and field star very much ingrained in the history of not just American sport, but America in general it's somewhat surprising a movie about the man hasn't already been made. And so, Race has good intentions, clearly. Regrettably, that is all it has going for it though, as director Stephen Hopkins (a spotty director who has credits on well-renowned TV series, but whose feature credits are rather lousy) infuses his film with little to no energy leaving audiences to feel more as if they're walking through a Jesse Owens exhibit at a museum than becoming immersed in his life experiences. The film is a by the numbers biopic that takes us through the year of 1933 when Owens begins attending Ohio State up through the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The film gets points for not being your traditional cradle to grave biopic as it never dwells on the fact Owens was one of ten children and only notes his penchant for running by referencing his equaling of the world records in the 100-yard dash and long-jump competitions while still in high school. Of course, it is this achievement that would gain Owens national attention and the attention of numerous colleges from which Owens would choose Ohio State due to the reputation of their coach, Larry Snyder, for being the best there was. Did I lose you over those last few sentences? Dolling out information that is undoubtedly interesting, but given no soul or feeling were extracted from them you also tended to feel nothing? Well, guess what? That is pretty much how this movie will make you feel as well. It plays out, hitting all the expected beats of a film about a famous figure, sports or any kind of star, and then slogs to its conclusion before delivering the obligatory note cards over real-life pictures of our main characters that tells what the rest of life held for Owens. All interesting, but never invigorating. Full review here. D+

There is as much a vibrancy to Triple 9 as there is a subdued sense of dread. It's not hard to tell something bad or suspicious is lurking around every corner in this Atlanta-set cop drama from director John Hillcoat (The Road, Lawless, The Proposition) and yet, at the same time, you can't help but to want to turn those corners in anticipation of seeing the story develop. First time feature writer Matt Cook gives us a rather complex plot to comprehend, but that his script dives into the key characters head first and we come to know them and their circumstances almost immediately gives us reason to invest and want to understand these present complexities. From moment one, where we see a four man team robbing a bank with The Walking Dead's Norman Reedus serving as the lookout in an inconspicuous vehicle, I was into the dirty, grimy narrative that Hillcoat and Cook would be weaving to presumably get at bigger themes and larger statements about race, justice, and the gray lines that divide honor and disdain. The film accomplishes as much by not just being about bank robbers and corrupt police officers, but rather Triple 9 utilizes the unaccounted for details of emotion and other human elements to disturb the strict proceedings some, if not most, of its characters attempt to operate within. There is no room for emotions or a softened mental state within the Atlanta police department, especially for detectives. We see this in the toll that has clearly been taken on Woody Harrelson's character, Jeffrey Allen, while there is certainly no room for as much under the rule of Irina Vlaslov (Kate Winslet) a Russian Jew looking to free her powerful husband with the help of a few hired hands. Through each of these characters Cook enlists some type of inherent emotional attachment-making things never as clear cut as the puppet masters would like them to be. While this may not be to the characters advantage, it makes things all the more savory for the audience member waiting to see what decisions will be made and how such decisions will reverberate through to other aspects of the story. That said, Triple 9 is not a perfect film (far from it, really), but more times than not I was on the edge of my seat anxious to see where it and more importantly, its characters, would take me. Full review here. B-

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