On DVD & Blu-Ray: September 13, 2016


Super hero movies, as we know them today, must walk the difficult line of being somewhat grounded in a reality audiences can relate to while at the same time embracing (not just accepting, but embracing) the inherent goofiness of the facts of the matter. In a broad scope, this is about guys and girls in colorful suits with silly nicknames duking it out with what tends to be (at least in the Marvel Cinematic Universe) a flavor of the week villain that does just enough to further the arc of what remains to be built in this ongoing series. What grounds these colorful characters sporting strange labels is the repercussions of their actions. The Avengers can shut down an entire alien race while destroying New York in the process and widely be regarded as the heroes of the scenario, but the fact of the matter is that if this were to happen in our reality there would be thousands upon thousands dead and even more injured. With the third Captain America film, Civil War, Marvel has found it the necessary time to begin giving their heroes more heady spaces to wander. Sure, there is still a bigger antagonist than either Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) or Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in Civil War that leads to the plot being more run of the mill than I was hoping things might go, but there is enough justification and perspective to this villains plan that we go with what we're being offered. Perspective is a key word here. Not only in the driving force that puts the team at odds over the still brewing conflict concerning The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), but for these superior beings to take into account the consequences of their actions and come face to face with their shortcomings-the film more or less exploring how they deal with such realizations when they're brought up as potential charges. Captain America is a firm believer in consequentialism in that his goals are morally important enough that any method of achieving them are acceptable with the understanding of the unfortunate caveat that he will never be able to save everyone. It is in exploring such territory and being bold enough to bring their heroes face to face with such a reality that Marvel exceeds in walking that difficult line. Captain America: Civil War is very much a Marvel movie in that it is full of bright colors, genuinely funny quips, and some solid action set pieces, but bringing these characters (and these performers) into more interesting dynamics with one another notches up the reality factor with the result being an admirable balancing act that deserves to be applauded. Full review here. Video review here. B

One of the things I really appreciated about The Conjuring was that director James Wan (Saw, Insidious, Furious 7) didn't approach the film as if it were a horror film, but more a serious drama about a family in crisis. With this sequel Wan has created a similarly framed film, but this time with more emphasis on the aspect that allows him to continue this franchise without the majority of the principle characters from the original. In being able to utilize Ed and Lorraine Warren (played once again by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) and their vast catalog of paranormal encounters Wan has basically created a formula for which he can produce numerous sequels based on the most interesting case files of these demonologists. As long as Wilson and Farmiga are willing to return there is no reason as to why we won't be witness to several more Conjuring films. This doesn't seem to be the hidden intent of the filmmaker though as he is clearly fully engulfed in the present and in the responsibility of not only respectfully bringing the Warrens' stories to life, but those of the victims involved in these cases. With The Conjuring 2 Wan tackles what is known as the "Enfield poltergeist". Set in 1977, this sequel is loosely based on when the Warrens traveled to north London to help a single mother and her four children escape their house that was plagued by malicious spirits. In classic Wan fashion, The Conjuring 2 is a beauty of a horror film. As breathtaking in its visual grandeur as it is frightening in its moments of horrific ecstasy. At a runtime of nearly two hours and fifteen minutes this is an epic of sorts in the horror genre, a full-on deep dive not only into what makes people afraid of the dark, but into the characters and the people that are believed to have experienced such events and how they deal with such trauma in as human and as logical a fashion as can be hoped for. The Conjuring 2 is a slow burn of character development paired with a surplus of seeming proof and doubt as to what is really going on. Plaguing his film with confusion and integrating the Warrens all the more vitally, Wan has created a horror film that, while not necessarily transcending the genre, is certainly the closest thing we've had to a film redefining the genre since its predecessor. Full review here. Video review here. B-

There is a definitive climactic feel to everything about the latest venture from The Lonely Island, as if a culmination of everything the trio has been working towards since "Lazy Sunday" debuted over ten years ago. Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer have always had a knack for writing these catchy, hilarious spoofs of trending musical styles by taking timely and/or brutally honest perspectives and applying them to legit beats created by credible producers. The trick is they convey their sometimes cutting commentary and other times all out ridiculousness with the mentality of the pop culture machine in that it all feels superfluous and can be enjoyed for its surface level pleasures, but if one cares to look-there is more there. The Lonely Island have applied that same approach and ideology to their latest feature film project as this is very much a mockumentary that is lampooning the trend of pop stars producing their own "behind the scenes" documentaries in order to both appeal further to their established fan base while hopefully converting a few of the uninitiated as well. Out of the big, sprawling narrative we call life the managing teams around the likes of Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, and One Direction have crafted three-act narratives around their phenomenon's in order to give some sense of structure to lives that likely have very little of it. The Lonely Island have taken the idea of this type of branding and selling and picked out every aspect in which they can make fun of thus creating the perfect vessel of sorts for them to both create their own music and release it simultaneously while adding the all-important visual element to those songs in the form of a feature film. As a longtime fan of The Lonely Island and pretty much all they stand for Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping feels like that aforementioned culmination due to the fact this format provides the perfect stage for the type of comedy and social commentary The Lonely Island has always been good at, but have now been afforded the chance to realize on a much bigger scale. Are there issues with the film as a whole? Sure, a few, but to pick out the minor quibbles would be to detract from how much fun it is to watch this deconstruction of not only the music industry, but pop culture in general and the near perfect execution with which it pulls off the task it sets out to accomplish. Full review here. Video review here. A

Directors Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow have created a documentary around filmmaker Brian De Palma that discusses how few directors have a better reputation and body of work in the field of the suspense genre that has simultaneously explored the contemporary darkness in American life than Mr. De Palma. Within this documentary the writer and director takes us through his professional life in his own words while also confessing to the challenges of working in Hollywood and the price that is paid even by someone who'd built up as much credibility and good will as he. Though I've yet to see De Palma I'm anxious to see what all the fuss is about as this doc has been receiving rave reviews since it began a run of limited screenings back in June.





This straight to VOD Bruce Willis action/crime thriller about a bank that is hit by a brutal heist with all evidence pointing to the bank's owner and his high-powered clients is one of those straight to VOD actioners it seems Nicolas Cage would typically star in. Marauders has all the makings of a studio release though, as Willis and a group of FBI agents (including Christopher Meloni and Dave Bautista) dig deeper into the case and discover a larger conspiracy is at play the film seems as if it may even have something of a social commentary to it, but despite the nicely designed artwork and rather solid supporting cast (Adrian Grenier also stars) I can't see ever finding enough motivation or boredom to give this thing a shot.