On DVD & Blu-Ray: September 20, 2016

From the opening cityscape shot of New York City accompanied by Steve Jablonsky's pulsing score new director Dave Green (Earth to Echo) establishes a fresh, but familiar tone with this sequel to 2014's "surprisingly" successful reboot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle live action series. With Michael Bay producing, a hired hand director, and a string of production issues it is something of a wonder that first film came off as well as it did. In more or less accomplishing what it intended to be for the audience it intended to target Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles qualified as a success. And if that opinion is to be shared it is also highly likely one would agree with the fact this sequel, subtitled Out of the Shadows, is even more successful in its end goals as the story is more coherent, the characters more in tune with their distinctive personalities, and the whole affair in general being a lot more fun. That isn't to say Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is a great film as it certainly has no aspirations to be groundbreaking and seems to only hope to fall in line with the rules rather than to be an exception, but in doing little more than fully embracing its source material in the most cartoonish and goofy of ways it gets so many things right it parlays itself into a pleasantly entertaining time at the movies. It would be easy to pick apart a film such as this for the gaps in logic, the idea that Megan Fox's April O'Neil could so easily break into as high profile a lab as Dr. Baxter Stockman's (Tyler Perry), or that Hollywood should be ashamed of itself for wasting the talent of actors like Laura Linney in this type of disposable entertainment, but what would be the point? TMNT has been around long enough at this point that there is some respect due to the series for being as endearing as it has continued to be. The fact that it centers around four genetically mutated reptiles who listen to a giant rat and have a sexy news reporter and a guy with a hockey mask on their team is easy ammo if one cares to criticize such openly ridiculous material, but that Green and screenwriters Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec choose to embrace such absurdities rather than attempt to play them down (ahem...Fantastic Four) makes it easier for the audience to do the same. Full review here. Video review here. B-

Two summers ago we were introduced to Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) Miller, a couple who'd just welcomed their first child into the world and purchased their first home in what were natural steps towards adulthood. That seemingly smooth transition was abruptly interrupted when they learned they were actually living next door to a fraternity. Led by incorrigible party guy Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) the two households went head to head with one another in a war of wits and schemes that once again conveyed the age old lesson of Seth Rogen comedies in that there comes a time in every young man's life when it's time to become a confused man-child. While this interesting, albeit somewhat contrived premise worked wonders the first time proving fertile ground for consistent and interesting comedy, it was such a singular type of event that to make a sequel would seem to automatically cheapen the effect of the first film. Lucky for us, director Nicolas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) along with Rogen and longtime writing partner Evan Goldberg as well as Brendan O'Brien and Andrew Jay Cohen have crafted a screenplay that not only allows for this same premise to work again, but they also use this set-up to make legitimate social commentary. Executing comedy successfully is difficult enough, but to on top of that endeavor to actually say something substantial in between your weed and dildo jokes is admirable, at the very least. What this comes down to is placing a fledgling sorority (led by the likes of Chloë Grace Moretz, Dope's Kiersey Clemons, and Beanie Feldstein) in the house where Teddy's Delta Psi once resided. In doing this, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is able to transform itself from simply giving the Miller's another challenge in sleep deprivation to a film that analyzes the inherent double standards of society by exposing how our system has more or less been cultivated to give males the advantage in the majority of circumstances. The issue of being able to party or not may be a trivial one, but this is obviously a gateway to a bigger means and that Neighbors 2 makes you contemplate anything at all is rather impressive. Full review here. Video review here. B

It is difficult to know where to begin when discussing the new Matthew McConaughey film, Free State of Jones. The film encompasses such a large canvas spanning nearly fifteen years from the heart of the Civil War in 1862 up until 1876 illustrating how, despite the war being over, many people-especially freed black men and women-were still fighting battles every day. If Free State of Jones is anything it is an admirable piece of work, a beautiful disaster in some ways, but more than anything the film doesn't seem to know what to do with or how best to convey all that it so strongly desires to say. Writer/director Gary Ross (Pleasantville, Seabiscuit, and the first Hunger Games film) has created a two and a half hour epic of sorts, but in the end it still feels as if the movie has more to say. This isn't a good thing and it certainly doesn't do the audience, who have already sat through that extensive run time, much consolation if not some satisfaction. In many ways, Free State of Jones should have been an HBO or FX miniseries that simultaneously chronicled the life of Newton Knight and how he seemingly lived for others as well as his family tree that came about after having children with Rachel (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), an African-American who was once a slave. That the feature film version of this story even attempts to go back and forth between the actions of Knight himself as well as eighty-five years into the future where one of his great grandchildren stands trial for being a small percentage African-American and is thus charged with breaking the law for marrying a Caucasian woman is nuts. Sure, the parallels between what Knight was fighting for in 1875 and what his descendants were still dealing with in the 1950's is effective and certainly makes a strong statement about how little has changed despite a considerable amount of time passing-making the main idea of the movie more relevant than ever today-there just isn't room for it here. Going from the midst of the Civil War to our protagonist hiding out in a swamp, to him building a community that forms the basis of his rebellion and eventual secession from the Confederacy, and then going even further into the continued struggles during the Reconstruction period Free State of Jones leaves itself no room to breathe. That said, because there is so much there is a lot of stuff to find interesting as well. It is almost the opposite of that mantra that goes, "It's not what's being said, but how it's said," as Free State of Jones is more focused on what's being said given how it's being said is something of a mess. Full review here. B-

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