On DVD & Blu-Ray: May 17, 2017

Maybe it was the expectations, maybe it was the promise of something fresh in a genre we only get one or two exceptional pieces in each year, but whichever way you cut it The Witch is something of a letdown. Still, as I walked out of the theater I couldn't help but to feel I'd just witnessed something I wasn't supposed to see. Writer/director Robert Eggers has adapted his story from old folklore and stories of supposed witchcraft in the New England region circa 1630 that have been passed down over generations and has even used a fair amount of dialogue from journals and other written accounts that still exist. While this is nothing short of fascinating and makes for an authentic-feeling atmosphere this aspect unfortunately ends up being the films single greatest strength. The lurking woods that lay just outside the house of William, his wife Katherine and their five children including newborn Samuel stand as something of a no-man's land that is a constant reminder of just how little wiggle room there is for our characters. This is not only true of their physical space, but of their mindset as William and Katherine lead a devout Christian life and teach their children to do the same. We never look at the characters as ignorant or naive, but more in the light of them having a very narrow view of how to explain things and thus the film itself feels trapped in this little box just waiting to burst out with the supernatural sorcery that seems to lie just on the other side of those woods. Of course, some would argue that is what is so beautiful about the story as well-that it is restrained enough throughout thus making its final minute all the more haunting. The thing is, for that final minute to be something of a payoff the previous eighty-eight have to be enthralling enough for that last one to make a serious impact and in that regard, The Witch simply isn't consistent enough to warrant the gasp it so desperately yearns for. Full review here. C

Dirty Grandpa is the kind of movie that longtime fans of Robert De Niro will scoff at and others will see as Zac Efron continuing to hang his movie stardom on the only game in town that seems to work for him: R-rated comedies. By this point in time though, De Niro isn't hurting his legacy as much as he is simply continuing to do what he loves, but with less demanding material. The guy's legacy is cemented in the films he made and the roles he personified in his prime that are still discussed today. Dirty Grandpa won't hurt his legacy because no one will remember Dirty Grandpa two months from now. Efron, on the other hand, has been testing this reliable formula since Charlie St. Cloud and the indies he attempted that didn't hit. The moment that not only The Paperboy failed to connect, but both At Any Price and Parkland failed critically and commercially it was as if Efron told his agent to only send him one type of script. Over the past two years Efron has starred in That Awkward Moment, Neighbors, We Are Your Friends and the movie we're discussing in this review. Just around the corner, the actor has four movies in some stage of production all of which are comedies, and all likely rated-R. So, what does this tell us about Dirty Grandpa? Well, it tells us to expect nothing more than the tried and true formula that has kept Efron afloat and that will continue to give De Niro paydays in the vein of The Intern and Last Vegas. These are perfectly fine, broad comedies that do what they are intended to do and little more. They open up with an accessible premise, do their job for an hour and a half, and wrap everything up nicely so we can go home feeling good about the ten bucks we invested in it. Dirty Grandpa certainly tries too hard in certain moments and director Dan Mazer (I Give it a Year) doesn't know how to balance the raunch with the heart very well, but I laughed often enough to qualify it as more of a win than a waste of time. At the very least there is genuine character development happening as the arc of the film depends on it and there is clear effort being made to craft a legitimately funny movie which is more than I can say for the total cash grab that is Ride Along 2. Full review here. C-

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