On DVD & Blu-Ray: June 28, 2016

The Kung Fu Panda films hold something of a special place in my heart for reasons I'm not really sure of. The first was a blockbuster of an original for DreamWorks, who'd been struggling to produce a hit outside the Shrek and Madagascar franchises. It didn't hurt that it premiered during a summer that felt rather exceptional as it counts among its company the likes of Iron Man, The Dark Knight, and Tropic Thunder. Of course, by the time the sequel came around three years later it was considered something of a disappointment as it opened to only $46 million (the original opened to $60m without the 3D bump of the sequel), but in terms of quality it was right up there with the first, if not better. Maybe the idea that since I'd ventured out to see the sequel and didn't understand the drop in anticipation made me feel as if I should hold the film more sacred (though the same is now true with How to Train Your Dragon 2), but something akin to as much happened and five years later I could not have been happier to see Po and the furious five returning. I realize how odd it may sound for a grown man whose only child isn't even old enough to go to the movies be excited for an animated children's film, but much like the films of Pixar, certain DreamWorks properties have that transcendent quality where age doesn't matter. The Kung Fu Panda franchise, for me at least, is one of those. It is one of those franchises that I can't wait to share with my children in the hopes they embrace the ideas and themes these movies so boldly teach. Po has always been about defying expectations and not judging books by their covers which, in the realm of kids movies, aren't exactly new ideas, but they bring them to life in such a reverential way that it is impossible not to appreciate the craft and skill that has gone into creating a compelling narrative around such basic ideas. In the great tradition of the series, Kung Fu Panda 3 is a riveting and completely fun chapter that is gorgeous in its visual representations, effectively moving in its weightier moments, and satisfying in a manner that Po's story has come full circle and feels complete. Full review here. B

Directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa have carved out something of a niche for themselves by making high-brow, star-centric, concept dramedies that one can't help but to be interested in if over a certain age. With Crazy Stupid Love being something of a breakout after their underrated 2009 debut in I Love You Phillip Morris the co-directors collaborated on writing and directing the stylish if not overly convoluted Will Smith caper last winter in Focus and have now moved on to collaborate with Tina Fey and long time writing partner Robert Carlock for this adaptation of newspaper reporter Kim Barker's memoir, "The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan". While I haven't read Barker's book this is one of the few stories I almost feel compelled to go back and read after having seen the movie version. Typically, I like to read any type of source material prior to seeing a film adaptation due simply to knowing where the idea for the film came from and what/why certain changes might have been made to better adapt the material to a different art form, but Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (why they didn't keep the more engaging title of the book for the movie is something of a mystery, especially given I don't recall there being a title card in the film) is something of an aberration in the sense that the film itself is not necessarily what we might expect from a seeming comedy, that somehow was able to get away with an R-rating, and stars one of the more agreeable celebrities of our time. Fey is someone even the most cynical among us can't seem to dislike and so to pair her with directors who have somehow managed to secure solid budgets on thoughtful, adult fare such as this is inspiring and thankfully, worth the endeavor as the resulting product is a well-constructed, nicely measured bit of insight into a set of circumstances not many can identify with- making this inside look and the general proceedings all the more engaging and interesting. Full review here. B-

I have regretted missing Eye in the Sky at last years TIFF for months now as I didn't get a chance to see the film when it opened in limited theatrical release either, but now that the film has finally arrived on home video I will hopefully correct that missed course of action this weekend as I've heard nothing but good things about the Helen Mirren thriller. Mirren plays Col. Katherine Powell, a military officer in command of an operation to capture terrorists in Kenya, who sees her mission escalate when a girl enters the kill zone triggering an international dispute over the implications of modern warfare. Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) also stars with the film marking the final on-screen appearance of the late, great Alan Rickman.

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