On DVD & Blu-Ray: July 5, 2016


It's clear there is a driving force of sorts behind Angelina Jolie Pitt's (who I'll simply refer to as Jolie throughout this review because I'm not typing Jolie Pitt three hundred times) writing and direction, it's just not clear what that force is. While I never saw her debut, In the Land of Blood and Honey, 2014's insanely promising but ultimately disappointing Unbroken more or less set the prospects for any future Jolie pictures to that of being hopeful, but not necessarily optimistic. While the less than enthusiastic response to Unbroken must have been a blow to not only the writer/directors ego, but to the faith she has in herself and her abilities it seems her reaction has been to return to the forum with a much lower-key project, inspired by the films of yesteryear and containing only a select number of characters. Jolie sets her film in the seventies and then isolates her characters to a French Riviera where this character study is almost forced into existence. Taking the idea of a strained marriage and somewhat bravely allowing such a dysfunctional portrait to be painted with herself and real life husband Brad Pitt in the roles Jolie goes for a restrained and bleakly artistic look at two people at the end of their ropes for reasons we're not exactly clear on. In fact, while I can appreciate a good slow burn, By the Sea is such a staggering epic of quietness and indulgence that the boredom overtakes the measured emotions by the time the twenty minute mark hits. The problem is the quiet characters and their inability to communicate make it difficult for the viewer to find anything interesting or worth investing in about them and thus the patience wears thin before the film ever glimpses its portions that might seem interesting. There is a good movie in here somewhere, no doubt, a wholly engaging film about the natural dynamics of a seasoned couple and how the dealings of going through something unbelievably difficult while initially testing their bond might eventually lead to an even stronger one. Unfortunately, By the Sea is too generous with the amount of time we spend with this couple and too tedious in the events it depicts to be that film. Full review here. D

Hank Williams doesn't seem to have been that great of a guy. He became addicted to the drink, morphine, and other painkillers as well as fathering several children, only one of which he ever married their mother and this all before his untimely death at the age of twenty-nine. While Williams may not have necessarily been the best guy (and possibly one of the worst parents) it is usually these types of people that stand to create the most interesting stories and in Williams case, write the most interesting ones as well. Before becoming popular as a singer Williams was primarily known for being one of country and westerns top songwriters. Williams penned and performed countless tunes for a radio show in his hometown of Montgomery, Alabama before securing a deal with the music publishing firm Acuff-Rose as a professional songwriter. All of that taken into consideration, one wouldn't really come to learn much of this from the Marc Abraham (Flash of Genius) biopic, I Saw the Light. Abraham's film tends to prefer only patching together a few story points in the singer's life rather than truly digging into its subject's life and finding out what really made this man tick. It's admirable that Abraham doesn't take the easy route of opening his film backstage before one of Williams last shows and using it as a framing device for a period of reflection in which the movie's told, but he also doesn't come up with an alternative way to tell us anything insightful about the man, and a movie needs to offer more than a Wikipedia page does. Full review here. C-

I rather enjoyed Jason Bateman's 2014 directorial debut Bad Words. I think I've watched it more times than I initially imagined I would given I thought it was fine, but little more. That said, I was really excited to see what Bateman would do next in the director's chair and boy does he deliver. While I had tempered expectations for The Family Fang it was clear after the films cold open that we were in for something pretty unique. This is in fact the strongest element the film has going for it in that you never quite know where it's going. Eventually, given the circumstances presented, we understand the themes of family and liberation that are being touched upon, but never do we know exactly what will happen next. This is due largely in part to the fact the premise is so different and off the wall. Adapted from a 2011 Kevin Wilson novel by screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire (Rabbit Hole, Oz the Great and Powerful) The Family Fang is a film that is telling a dysfunctional family story through the conduit of performance art. With this material Bateman has taken advantage of the dark comedic tones the story highlights and is really able to explore not only his growth as a filmmaker (you can feel the more assured hand at work), but a more complex range of emotions. Bad Words was very on the nose for the sarcastic, cynical straight man, but The Family Fang requires more layers and it is layers he has provided as his latest film never stops evolving and the characters only grow out of the demons they're forced to come face to face with. Full review here. B

I started watching Pamela Romanowsky's film adaptation of Stephen Elliott's memoir, The Addreall Diaries, in which James Franco portrays Elliot as a writer hindered by past success, writers block, substance abuse, relationship problems and a serious set of father issues, but never got around to finishing it. Though the premise feels somewhat tired and is no doubt full of self-loathing artists I have to admit there was some intrigue to it and though it may not have inspired me to read any more of Elliot's works I may come back around to finish the film one day should it pop up on my Netflix recommendations.