On DVD & Blu-Ray: October 18, 2016

There is a bit of trivia on the IMDB page for Independence Day: Resurgence that talks about how, after the success of the first film, 20th Century Fox paid screenwriter Dean Devlin a large sum of money to write a script for a sequel. The story goes though, that after completing the script for what would have been the original sequel to 1996's Independence Day Devlin decided not to turn it in and instead gave the money back to the studio. The trivia goes on to state that Devlin did this because he felt the story didn't live up to the first film. As we are now twenty years removed from that original film and have now seen what an Independence Day sequel looks like this course of action only seems to beg one question: how bad must that original sequel script have been? Could it really have retreaded the beats of the first film as much as Resurgence does? The only thing that differentiates the first film from this new one is the passage of time and how that has changed earth's technologies and defense systems while having what cast returns look a little older. The IMDB page goes on to say that it was only fifteen years later, when Devlin met up with director Roland Emmerich to try again, that they felt they had finally "cracked" a story for a sequel. Though it is difficult to be downright negative towards a film-story and character development certainly aren't Resurgence's strong suits and may even be the most laughable aspects of a movie that tries really hard to be funny. One can't help but feel that, in this scenario, "cracking" the story only meant they were offered a lot more money than before. If Resurgence does indeed deliver the story that Emmerich and Devlin thought more justified the existence of a sequel to their 1996 feature it can only now be concluded that they were only going to repeat themselves more with the scrapped screenplay. While Resurgence certainly finds moments of dumb fun and some rather spectacular action sequences given special effects have improved greatly in the last two decades it is more or less a retread of what we saw in that original movie in terms of ensemble cast and humans versus aliens. Granted, the question easily posed in response to that statement is, "what did you expect it to be?" and the answer to that is that they at least try to find a new way into that same old story. Video review here. Full review here. D

For a movie wholly concentrated on time, time travel, and the essence of time it sure feels like this sequel to the 2010 Alice in Wonderland is a huge waste of it. Time that is. Of course, given that 2010 Tim Burton film made north of a billion dollars at the box office it was an inevitability that we'd be getting a sequel sooner or later, but it's still somewhat surprising it has come this late. Six years have passed, a handful of other live action adaptations of classic Disney animated films have been made and yet here we are, back in Wonderland. Having not read the Lewis Carroll stories on which these adventures of Alice have been based one has to imagine that to have made as big a cultural impact as they have they were more inventive and innovative than the film adaptations we're now receiving. To say that is to say that Alice Through the Looking Glass is no more interesting or compelling than its predecessor. It wasn't without hope that this viewer walked into this six year later sequel with optimism that new director James Bobin (The Muppets) might bring something fresh and exciting to what otherwise felt like the jaded side of Tim Burton that was incarnated in his predecessor. Transforming the widely known Wonderland as perceived by the naiveté of a child Alice, Burton turned the fantasy world into Underland and gave us a darker film than expected. That was all well and good until the movie didn't really work, but Bobin has now come along to bring to life a brighter, more enticing time in the realm of Wonderland as our heroine must travel through space and time to try and save the dying of depression Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp). This brings to mind the biggest undoing of Through the Looking Glass in that its narrative drive simply isn't compelling enough to sustain its nearly two hour runtime. It becomes repetitive and as if it is searching for disparate plot strands to try and pull together a complete story. Linda Woolverton, who has made a career out of writing Disney films (including The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast), adapted Carroll's story here and while there are certainly moments of inspired humor, a few nice character moments, and grand majestic visuals by way of Bobin and the special effects team, there is no substance to the product as a whole. It is a wonder how forgettable the film turns out to be. Video review here. Full review here. D

Café Society is a movie I wanted to like more and more as the film played on, but as it did so I actually liked it less and less. Beginning with the standard narration from writer/director Woody Allen that drops us into this tale of a young man looking for a place where the grass might be greener things are promising enough. We are introduced to a cadre of family members around our protagonist, Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg), who will inevitably inform where this current inclination to leave his father's failing jewelry business and move across the country to Los Angeles will actually take him. It is 1930's Los Angeles no less and so Bobby is struck by the great seduction of movie stars, movie star parties, and the most beautiful of people to allure him to the city. It is a place considered mythic to the otherwise unrefined Bobby who has been stuck in Manhattan his entire life. The promise of new beginnings, though somewhat stalled by the disregard of his Uncle Phil (Steve Carell), and the downright gorgeous cinematography of Vittorio Storaro that bathes all of golden age Hollywood in gold lends Café Society this vibrant and crisp feeling that resonates strongly with the modern audience hoping to catch a glimpse of the glitz and glamour of 1930's Hollywood that is well-documented, but too rarely brought to life. This fascination can only last so long though before it becomes clear Allen's latest isn't necessarily about the introspection of this period in history or even a story that compliments the time period in lending insight to the names and faces we all know, but would like to know better. Instead, Café Society becomes a story solely about the romantic plight of Bobby, an Allen surrogate that Eisenberg again plays tremendously without the burden of having the actual Allen co-star alongside him as he did in 2012's To Rome With Love, but as with that film Café Society ends up offering little more than Allen's insecure yet intellectual quips on love, life, and religion among other things. Unfortunately, at this point such musings without an exceptional story on which to convey them simply feel like little more than standard meditations. It is unfortunate there isn't more imagination and wonder behind this latest excursion of Allen's for Café Society's potential initially feels as fresh and crisp as Bobby's outlook upon arriving in Los Angeles. Full review here. C

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