On DVD & Blu-Ray: August 2, 2016


When Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key began their sketch comedy series in 2012 I wasn't aware of either comic in any large capacity save for a few supporting roles in random comedies. While I never jumped on the bandwagon that was the huge following their Comedy Central show soon amassed I saw enough clips on YouTube to know these guys were smart, insightful comedians who enjoyed commenting on social expectations by upending them in inventive ways. Most of these having to do with race or gender stereotypes, but nevertheless they were smart enough about their approach that many of their sketches quickly became cultural reference points in the same way Chappelle's show had a decade earlier. When Key and Peele's show ended in the fall of last year it was somewhat surprising given their three year run had yielded them great success, numerous opportunities, and it more or less seemed as if the duo were just beginning to really heat up. Talk about going out on top. It seems that with all the free time ending their show opened up for them the comedic duo decided it was time to take their act to the big screen. With the danger of wearing out their welcome by translating what worked for them in a five minute sketch to feature length as well as taking into account the low success rate of sketches turned into feature films the odds were never in their favor, but alas Key and Peele have made their formula work for them more than it doesn't. Again, coming from a position of having seen only a handful of sketches from what I'm sure is a much larger, more illustrious library than I can even imagine I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from Keanu, but due to the fact I largely enjoy broad comedies with outlandish premises that expose those premises for all they're worth Keanu largely succeeds in the goals it sets for itself. Of course, given I'd seen only what is likely the highest highlights from their show I was hoping for more consistent laughter, but there are enough big laughs here to tide one over when the movie intermittently forgets what it's supposed to be in exchange for the authenticity of what it is supposedly lampooning. Full review here. Video review here. C+

As a young man growing up in the nineties it was next to impossible to not be infatuated with Batman: The Animated Series. Whether you'd seen any of the Adam West series or not there was something immediately intriguing about Batman and his alter-ego, billionaire Bruce Wayne. While the animated series that ran from 1992-1995 would more or less become the definitive Batman of my generation little did I know that at the same time I was celebrating my first birthday author Alan Moore and illustrator Brian Bolland were releasing what would become something of a seminal piece of work in the bat universe that would forever influence the tone and depiction of Jerry Robinson's creation. I am of course referring to the 1988 graphic novel, The Killing Joke, which has now been adapted into a DC original animated movie. While I consider myself a pretty big Batman fan that fandom is more in regards to the cinematic incarnations of the character rather than his origins in comic books which I, unfortunately, don't tend to read much. To say that is to say that despite being aware of the Moore story I didn't really know the specifics of it and for some reason had not corrected that lack of knowledge even when in 2008 there were rumors Heath Ledger's version of the Joker in The Dark Knight would draw heavily on the Moore/Bolland interpretations. Having finally caught up with The Killing Joke I was anxious to see what an animated feature of the story might be able to offer or bring to the table what the comic couldn't. In other words, it would be tough-comics and books alike allow readers their own time with the material and their own time to consider the full ramifications of the actions that take place whereas movies are more prone to tell you how you should feel. Given the typically well-respected and regarded Warner Bros. Animation was at the helm of this long-awaited adaptation though, there was great hope in seeing justice done to this iconic story being brought to the screen. Unfortunately, there simply isn't enough in Moore and Bolland's comic to justify a feature length film and by adding a forty-minute prologue that concerns Barbara Gordon/Batgirl (Tara Strong) doesn't help in this case. It doesn't help that the animation feels cheap and rushed either with the only redeeming quality being that fans of that animated nineties series will once again be able to hear Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy reprise their iconic roles as The Joker and the Caped Crusader. Full review here. D

Most will likely walk out of The Lobster either loving or hating it. It's easy to see why this will be something of a divisive film given it's weird as hell. With all its observational humor conveyed in static, dry tones and cynical quips that paint the internet culture into a real-world society it will surely have its fans. Undoubtedly, there is much to like and appreciate here, but while I laughed several times and found the overall sentiment of the film to be a rather sweet one that is conveyed in a ridiculous yet inventive way I couldn't help but feel that it was trying too hard to be as much when the coolness factor of its unique ideas should have been effortless. The strangeness of the set-up to this world is so out there that it can't help but feel weird solely for the sake of being weird. Weird is fine and all, but The Lobster is pushing it. Some will find this endearing, others will see it as straining and unfortunately by the time the film concluded I was more in the latter category than the former. Writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos, in his English-language debut, certainly has a lot to say with his high-concept comedy, but up until the last half hour or so of the film things are more about the concept than they are the ideas he's attempting to discuss. Lanthimos spends so much time trying to make sure his audience will understand this world without blatantly spilling tons of exposition that all of the dialogue in the first hour feels like a sly way of explaining the rules of this world where one checks into a resort to find a mate and if failing to do so in forty-five days, facing the reality of being turned into an animal. So, yes, the film is conceptually striking given it is all a large metaphor for the way in which society tells us our lives are better when lived with a partner, but never does it transcend this gimmick until the moving final shot. Full review here. B

Where to even begin with director Ben Wheatley's (Kill List) latest, High-Rise, is beyond me. If ever there were a muck of a film that thrived on its look and style alone it would seem to be this one. Not even the charisma of insanely charismatic British actors like Tom Hiddleston and Luke Evans can save the hot mess this is, though they try desperately. From the outset, audiences are presented with a dystopic world of chaos and destruction that seems so disconnected from anything resembling familiarity that there is no urgency to care. Instead, this intended metaphor of social hierarchy is an aimless slog through the explanation of a failing system rather than any kind of examination of how social classes are commonly found in societies that are actually developed. All systems fail eventually, we understand that, but what we see in High-Rise is a society that never develops past the embryonic stages. It's always been something of a rule of thumb that a dominant hierarchy is necessary in order to maintain social order and provide a stable structure, but the folks who have created this luxury tower block seem to all want to live in luxury with no one invested in putting in the dirty work. Naturally, those living on the lower floors are the ones believed to be less worthy of their place in the tower and thus what eventually develops is an all-out dangerous social situation that leads the residents of the high-rise to fragment into violent tribes hell-bent on provoking one another into submitting to the other. While the circumstances of this premise would certainly turn into a rather disorderly situation in any film I didn't expect the film itself to do the same thing. Full review here. D
 
All comedies try to make us laugh. That's kind of the point. Still, there is a difference between trying to make audiences laugh by saying the unexpected out loud and those unexpected things actually being funny. In The Bronze The Big Bang Theory's Melissa Rauch plays washed up gymnast Hope Annabelle Gregory who still managed to medal at the 2004 Rome Olympics after shattering her achilles during a routine. She became something of an American hero of those particular games, the athlete the media chose to heap large amounts of coverage on because of her narrative maybe more so than because of her actual talent. Hope says a lot of things that might not be considered polite or politically correct, but that doesn't make her funny. Sure, I understand that a fair amount of comedy can come from degrading someone, something, or even ourselves, but no matter how hard these demeaning jokes make us laugh ( or don't) one thing remains to be true and that is the fact they come from a place of fear; we're attempting to distract ourselves from our own vulnerability. In short, we're trying to make ourselves feel better about our own lives. Hope does this consistently throughout The Bronze and while the juxtaposition of what we expect from polite society and what Hope delivers can be genuinely funny here and there the majority of the time the character simply comes across as self-centered, crass, and just plain nasty. Maybe this is because Hope is the only character the film cares to flesh out and so, while we somewhat get to know her father (Gary Cole), her new apprentice (Haley Lu Richardson), her love interest (Thomas Middleditch) and her arch nemesis (Sebastian Stan), because each of them are more or less targets for Hope to hurl her insults at rather than fully formed people it is nearly impossible for us to understand why she seems to naturally hate everyone. The only thing she clearly has an affinity for is herself and keeping her name and image at the height of its power in her hometown of Amherst, Ohio, but as these things go all of that is about to change. Full review here. D

The late Garry Marshall's final film was another in his series of documenting the going-ons of several individuals on specific  holidays, this time around celebrating the titular Mother's Day. This time he enlisted the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Kate Hudson, Jason Sudeikis, Timothy Olyphant, Jennifer Garner, Shay Mitchell, Britt Robertson, Hector Elizondo, Margot Martindale, Cameron Esposito, Aasif Mandvi, Larry Miller, Jack Whitehall, and of course his sister Penny among many others to tell the story of three generations coming together in the week leading up to Mother's Day. After Valentine's Day I haven't returned to Marshall's holiday-themed films, but given his recent passing I somewhat feel an obligation to. We'll see.