On DVD & Blu-Ray: July 26, 2016


Melissa McCarthy is more or less unstoppable. She is a movie star unlike anyone else at the moment and in a few years will likely look back on 2015-2016 as her prime years of output thus the reason we not only were treated to another McCarthy/Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat, SPY) collaboration this year with Ghostbusters, but also had the second offering from McCarthy and her producer/director/writer husband, Ben Falcone, in The Boss. Taken simply as a follow-up to their last directorial effort, 2014's Tammy, this is a huge leap forward in terms of quality. It was a strange transition of sorts as Tammy was the first project where McCarthy used her much-earned name above the title to pull some strings and make a project that would seemingly be close to her heart. This could only signal that the comedy and story would be something that was carefully cultivated by the husband/wife duo and would certainly come across with more of an edge and better developed characters than most comedies these days, right? One would think so, but for all the optimism I held for Tammy, McCarthy and Falcone let me down in the toughest of ways in that not only did it not make me laugh, but the entire affair felt pointless. And so, when I caught wind that McCarthy and Falcone would get the opportunity to make another movie off of Tammy's $100 million worldwide haul on a $20 million budget I didn't expect much. Maybe it was those tempered expectations that led to the more enjoyable experience I had with The Boss, but I have to believe the overall improvements in every aspect had more to do with this than grim assumptions. There is real structure to the story, actual punch lines to (most) of the jokes, and character development that felt due more to the storytelling than the improvisational skills of the actors. In short, The Boss feels like an actual movie. It may feel like a picturesque romantic comedy in its aesthetic with raunchy male anatomy jokes thrown in for good measure, but an actual movie nonetheless. Full review here. C

There was a time when something like Criminal would have reigned supreme at the box office and likely been heralded to some degree as unique in its premise if not necessarily successful in its execution, but in this day and age not only is Criminal not fresh or unique, but it's extremely tried and rote. I don't know that there was a time when Kevin Costner was a box office gold type name on the poster, but there was certainly a time when Costner was considered a surefire movie star that would at least guarantee a certain number of butts in seats. It seems, at least from what I hear of the movie star heyday, that there was a time Costner could have more or less played this same role in the same movie and it would have been a much buzzier film with bigger box office prospects based off his name alone (not to mention co-stars Gary Oldman and Tommy Lee Jones being value add elements). Unfortunately for Costner this is not the world we live in anymore. Instead, we live in a world where the best hope you have of becoming something even resembling a cultural phenomenon is being based off a comic book, young adult literary series, or have any other type of brand recognition/nostalgia factor you can tap into. When it comes to original action dramas like Criminal though, chances are slim of anything greater coming of your efforts unless you have David Fincher behind the camera. All of that said, this is a movie that squanders any potential it might have had at being an exception to the rule by adhering to very little coherence and even less logic. Truth is, I wanted to enjoy Criminal-I wanted to dig into it like the fictionalized Dateline episode I expected/hoped it would be and get wrapped up in the sci-fi tinged mystery that it presented, but instead the film plods along at an unusually clunky pace, never deciding what type of movie it wants to be yet appearing very obviously to be a very specific type of movie from the cast, narrative, and creative team alone. It's not that Criminal is necessarily a terrible movie, though it has some terrible parts, but it is most certainly not a good movie and worse-it's not even a movie worth watching passively. Full review here. D

Director John Carney (Once, Begin Again) is forty-four years old. He was born in 1972 making him thirteen or so in 1985. His latest film, Sing Street, about a boy growing up in Dublin during the 1980's who escapes his strained family life by starting a band feels remarkably autobiographical. Not knowing if this was the case or not before seeing the film (doing a little research reveals it in fact is) I could feel this sense of closeness, of passion for not only the time period and the music that is so evident it's contagious, but in the feelings these characters are actually feeling. In other words, it is beyond evident that Carney, who also wrote the screenplay, experienced much of what is on screen here himself. To accompany these feelings Carney is attempting to resurrect from his childhood is the music of that decade as well. With each of these moments we have a song or a lyric that elicits the grander emotion, the nostalgia-tinted adoration for the promise that youth holds and it is in these elements that Sing Street transcends being more than a simple coming of age story. Sure, on the surface the film could be described as a typical coming of age tale that features a boy trying to impress a girl by playing music and there are of course elements of those types of stories present here, but Carney utilizes such tropes in a fashion that they come across as pure magic. Through the eyes of this child of the eighties we are witness to not only his first love and the experience of him learning, picking up information and ideologies from those around him, informing the person he will become, but we also catch glimpses of the weight of adulthood, the realization that our ambitions can be greater than our inherent talent, and that the best parts of life can be those we leave more to mystery than those we come to know too well. Sing Street is a layered and complex film about adolescence and yet you never feel the weight of such themes because you're too busy being wrapped up in the infectious and heart-warming music the characters create from these circumstances. Full review here. A+

The Invitation is a home invasion movie that remains contained. It is a film about paranoia that keeps each potential threat within each characters field of vision. It is a film of formalities and the edge of such expectations some can be pushed to before destroying such pleasantries in order to cut through one another with the truth. At least, truth from a certain perspective. And that is the key to this largely successful horror/thriller as it operates within the realm of a certain number of perspectives with our lead constantly forcing us to question his particular view and if it is reliable or not. Director Karyn Kusama (Girlfight) mounts the film as a dinner party gathering between old friends coming together at the request of a couple they haven't heard from in years. Immediately the circumstances are strange as our protagonist, Will (Logan Marshall-Green of Prometheus), questions the motivations of both Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and her new husband David (Michiel Huisman) as they seemingly have little interest in re-connecting or beginning relationships anew, but rather have brought their once close-knit circle of friends back together for reasons that are both mysterious and ultimately selfish. While The Invitation is certainly a tense and involving film it is also an experiment in how slow one can actually drag out the burn of its mounting anxieties and confusions. There is an interesting and excellent forty-five minutes within what we're treated to here, but dragging the events out to full feature length make long stretches of the film feel more tedious than tense. That said, when the film is on a roll it is indeed on fire and with a very distinct aesthetic, a haunting score from Theodore Shapiro, and truly affecting performances, most notably from Marshall-Green and Blanchard, The Invitation proves to be a gathering worth attending. Full review here. B-

I was out of town the weekend Hardcore Henry opened in theaters and didn't catch up with it mainly because I didn't feel the need or care to. Instead, I caught up with The Boss which was fine enough, but while the premise for Hardcore Henry sounds like a bad sci-fi original (a man is resurrected from death with no memory, and he must save his wife from a telekinetic warlord with a plan to bio-engineer soldiers) it was the way in which it was shot and presented that was intended to be the hook. Ilya Naishuller, who made a music video for the band he fronts two years ago that ended up going viral, also ended up impressing the right people enough that it led to him teaming with producer/director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted). The result of this pairing is this ninety-six minute movie that, like his music video, features a lot of first-person perspective camerawork. The film sits at a 48% on Rotten Tomatoes, but I can't seem to muster the enthusiasm to want to see it so I instead direct you to our Initial Reaction YouTube channel where you can find a video review of the film courtesy of two of the students that help us prep, shoot, and cut our reviews. If you were unaware this site had a YouTube counterpart that produces video reviews weekly be sure to go ahead and check that out and subscribe, but if you did in fact realize that you can still go ahead and watch a few of the reviews again. It won't hurt ya. Video review here.

I also unfortunately never made it out to see the third (or fourth) entry in the Barbershop franchise as The Next Cut opened on the same week as The Jungle Book and Criminal and I opted for those two movies instead. With a current rating of 90% on the tomatometer it would seem I made the wrong choice in seeing Criminal (32%) and need to catch up with Ice Cube and the gang as I enjoyed the first two films in the series well enough to certainly meet up with these characters again. The Next Cut feels like the perfect movie for a lazy Friday or Saturday night on the couch so that might in fact become part of my lazy Friday or Saturday night on the couch this weekend.