On DVD & Blu-Ray: October 25, 2016

If the trailer spoiling the entire movie wasn't enough and you still decide Nerve is worth a look you'll likely be pleasantly surprised that it still proves to be (mostly) compelling. Despite ultimately knowing every beat this film is going to hit even if you've only seen a single trailer there is still something in the editing and overall emotional effect and where this wave of neon takes you in terms of a single experience that makes the film worth watching at least once. What that essentially means is that Nerve is not solely about getting from point A to point B and making sure the plot works which, considering the density of the details needed to understand the game is impressive enough, but more than that it focuses on the small moments in between those plot points allowing it to remain both compelling and more affecting than one might initially expect. One wouldn't think a film made by the guys behind Catfish (as well as a few Paranormal Activity flicks) would transfer so well to full on feature-length narrative storytelling, but with a script by Jessica Sharzer adapted from Jeanne Ryan's novel the filmmakers are able to tap into more than just the timely and relevant premise, but more the timeless relationships between high school students and the conditions of those relationships that being at that stage in life typically dictate. More than just another love story of sorts where the innocent/meek school girl takes the leap out of her comfort zone only to find a guy who she would have imagined was light years out of her league, but who actually appreciates her for being her-Nerve wraps its world in the dynamics between not only the young adults who are attracted to one another at the center of the story, but extends it to their circle of friends that tend to influence their decisions as much as their own minds. The fact the movie is about an online game with a countless number of viewers offering their "Likes" and comments only reinforces this mentality on a whole other (timely) level. By fleshing out not just the main protagonists and the game at its core, but rather by immersing viewers in this single night in New York City where neon can only mean more fun, exciting things Nerve overcomes its predictability and familiar story structure by giving us characters we care about. Full review here. B

Captain Fantastic director Matt Ross sure seems to have a grudge against Christianity. Or organized religion in general (which doesn't include Buddhism despite the fact there is a degree of organization that ensures rituals take place and dates are observed) as his directorial debut takes large aim at the followers of Jesus Christ and more or less insults them to a degree that doesn't offer enlightening or insightful reasons as to why these characters think a certain way nor does it provide a compelling alternative, but rather sticks to calling out an entire group of people without stepping back to recognize its own shortcomings. It is understandable given there are plenty of Christians who give what is intended to be a religion based on love above everything else a bad name with hateful words and actions just as I assume there are atheists or followers of other faiths that aren't exactly representative of the best of those organizations or groups core values. Still, as the largest religion in the world by a large margin it is understandable why Christianity takes most of the heat. It has the most variations thus numerous perspectives from which it can be criticized. As a practicing Christian I don't tend to get offended by those who hurl insults for if I'm wrong then so be it, but if I'm right then even better. Why wouldn't we want there to be something more to this life, though? Don't we all need something to look forward to? Isn't that how we continue to thrive and push on in our current lives? Looking forward to what's next? It's a question I find myself considering often when it seems those opposed to the existence of God seem to want to be right more than they want to actually consider the alternative. There is a difference in insulting a religion or system of beliefs in and of itself and insulting the people who decide to base their lives on those beliefs. Often, films with an agenda to oppose organized religion will call out the many available flaws and lack of proof such beliefs are based on rather than the intelligence of those who believe, but Captain Fantastic clearly has a vendetta against those who find comfort in their faith-even if that ends up being all it is. As human beings we need a little assurance, we need something to sometimes make our existence bearable and if religion or faith does that for someone, why should it bother those who don't need it? I don't have the answer to that question and the problem with Captain Fantastic is that it doesn't either. Full review here. C

While Mr. Church might have initially been looked at as something of a return to quality movie-making for star Eddie Murphy it is more a return to the realm of inoffensive movie making than anything else. Mr. Church is certainly no Pluto Nash or Norbit...hell, it's not even Meet Dave (which I admittedly never finished), but it isn't the high-reaching piece of transcendent cinema that encapsulates all the major themes of one's life that illustrates mistakes made and identities redeemed that it seemed to want so badly to be in its trailers either. Rather, Mr. Church is a pleasant enough distraction about a kind-hearted man that is largely elevated by the credible performances of its two leads. Both Murphy and Britt Robertson (Tomorrowland) deliver the necessary sympathies to draw on audience emotions that keep us invested in the sometimes tedious story that strings us along for decades with large stretches where little to nothing happens or is revealed. Fortunately, it isn't really the narrative that is meant to drive Mr. Church though, but rather the core relationship that forms between Murphy's titular character and Robertson's Charlotte Brody which remains the reason we become and stay as invested as we do throughout the sometimes tepid 100-minute runtime. The film, which comes from TV writing veteran Susan McMartin in her first feature film credit, feels rather episodic as a result with director Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy, Double Jeopardy) doing little to add any filmmaking flairs as, at the age of seventy-six, he seems to be on auto pilot. In that way, Mr. Church is very much a competently made and sometimes even emotionally affecting film, but most of the time it feels like a Hallmark movie that is emotionally manipulative for reasons of knowing it has little else to offer by way of connecting with its audience. It is a holiday Hallmark film that escaped the clutches of such a fate by appealing to talent such as Mr. Murphy by being a project not typically offered to the comedian and thus an opportunity after an intentional hiatus to do something different. Murphy, while doing his best to salvage this sappy if not occasionally comforting piece of melodrama can't rescue the project from total mediocrity, but he puts forth a valiant effort and that is duly noted. Full review here. C

This horror gem from this past summer finally makes its way onto home video this week and I couldn't be more excited as I finally will get to see what all the fuss is about around Lights Out and on the week leading up to Halloween no less. There were plans made to see this in theaters this past July with the wife who is something of a horror junkie, but life happens as it so often does and we simply never made it around to catching it on the big screen. That said, I've heard enough good things to purchase the film on good faith and check it out as soon as we can (which I'm planning on making tonight) as it seems director David F. Sandberg's debut feature film will be one to put on repeat every year around this time of year. Here's to hoping the hype hasn't got to me and I still enjoy Lights Out. You can check out my Letterboxd account through the link to see when I watch the film and how I rate it.

And yet another well-reviewed film from early in 2016 that I have yet to see as it failed to ever open at a local theater and is only just now arriving on blu-ray after debuting on DVD a month ago. Why the studio decided to stagger the release on the formats here is puzzling, but given the wave of glowing reviews (many people considering it their favorite of the year so far pre-awards season) I've seen for director Taika Waititi's follow-up to What We Do In The Shadows I can't wait to finally see what Hunt for the Wilderpeople has up its sleeve. Starring Sam Neill and Julian Dennison as a rebellious kid and his foster uncle who go missing in the wild New Zealand bush it seems this Sundance favorite has all the elements to deliver just the kind of odd, but intelligent humor Waititi is known for. 

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