On DVD & Blu-Ray: December 20, 2016

http://www.reviewsfromabed.com/2016/12/on-dvd-blu-ray-december-20-2016.html

The Magnificent Seven, the re-make of the 1960 John Sturges film starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen, from director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Equalizer) accomplishes exactly what it intends to be. This is pure popcorn entertainment meant to capitalize on the combination of brand awareness and the popularity of the actors it has on its roster. That said, it takes full advantage of those aspects while delivering a wholly satisfying blockbuster western. It is difficult even, to take away from what is being accomplished within this pure Hollywood product as its only ambition is clearly to deliver something of an updated mythos on the story of seven exceptionally skilled sharpshooters and little more. Given the Sturges film itself was a re-make of director Akira Kurosawa's 1954 film, Seven Samurai, that supplanted the story of a poor village under attack by bandits who recruited seven samurai warriors to help defend their village with an oppressed Mexican village that assembles seven gunfighters to help defend their homes from outlaws relays the idea this particular story is one that can easily be adapted for new ages, new circumstances, and with new relevance. And so, why re-make The Magnificent Seven once again? It seems as though Fuqua, while not having a complete answer, mostly intends to use MGM's idea to raid their classics catalog by allowing him to lend more context to and highlight more of the race relations that were taking place in the late 19th century than might have been approved of in 1960. In light of such a re-framing of history as people see it through pop culture (which is never a good place to rely on for your history, not in 1960 and not now) Fuqua has cast frequent collaborator Denzel Washington in the lead role or the equivalent of what Brynner played in the original. Filling out the titular seven we also have a Mexican in Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Ruflo), a Korean in Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), and a Native American in Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier) with the remainder of the crew filling out the tall white man quota with the likes of Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, and Vincent D'Onforio. Whether Fuqua's version of these events takes advantage of such changes and actually pulls insight or interesting dynamics from these updates is another thing as the 2016 The Magnificent Seven doesn't stand to get too weighty or theoretical, but instead it simply puts these ideas out there for audiences to recognize while at the same time making these characters so bluntly badass that boxes such as ethnicity hardly seem to matter. Whether this works in favor or against the reasoning for this movie to exist is a conversation to be had, but as far as I'm concerned Fuqua's film is so relentlessly entertaining and such a fun experience there need be no greater reason for its existence. Video review here. Full review here. B

Sully is a slim 95-minutes. It swoops in with a harrowing opening sequence and then only lets its foot off the throttle just long enough to place viewers back at the beginning of 2009 and familiar with Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger once again before thrusting them into the throws of the reasons this movie exists. The toughest challenge a movie about the "Miracle on the Hudson" was always going to face was going to be finding a new angle in which to present the story to audiences who were witness to an onslaught of media coverage around the actual event; what was there to the story we didn't already know? Turns out director Clint Eastwood and screenwriter Todd Komarnicki (who has only written three feature screenplays the last of which was the 2007 thriller Perfect Stranger starring Bruce Willis and Halle Berry) had plenty of material as the not so well documented aspect of the aforementioned "Miracle on the Hudson" was the fact the NTSB conducted an investigation as to whether or not Captain Sully could have in fact made it back to a runway instead of landing a pricey plane in the middle of a river. And so, what Eastwood has is a David and Goliath story of sorts where the line between good and bad is drawn early and distinctly with the script simultaneously evaluating the psyche of a man who happened to be in the right place during a bad situation that would result in him having to separate reality from the strange swirl of whatever kind of life was happening immediately following his unprecedented landing. And on many different levels, no less. This not so well publicized aspect of Sully's story combined with the revelatory state of mind Tom Hanks brings to his performance, some critical editing by Blu Murray (a frequent collaborator of Eastwood's, but someone who's never taken lead on one of his films) that lends these familiar events a whole new level of tension all packed into that slim running time make Sully a consistently perceptive interpretation of the events of January 15, 2009 that stands to be largely effective and appropriately affecting. Video review here. Full review here. B-

I see what Warner Brothers Animation is attempting to do here and I can dig it. After finding great success with The LEGO Movie and the fact they acquired the likes of Phil Lord and Chris Miller who directed 21 and 22 Jump Street (as well as Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, to their credit) to helm that hit animated movie the thought of continuing to try their hand at bringing in R-rated comedy directors and seeing how they operate within the world of children’s entertainment is a ballsy, but interesting move. Much like with the case of The LEGO Movie Warner Bros. was likely hoping this formula might produce something both mature and goofy with the plus of remaining consistently funny throughout the majority of its runtime. It makes sense and what better way to test said formula than with the likes of Nicolas Stoller, director of such films as Forgetting Sarah Marshall and the two Neighbors movies, thus the reason we now have Storks. Because of this inclination to take someone known for one thing and put them just far enough outside of their element, their comfort zone if you will, I was inclined to be more interested in this seemingly agreeable animated family movie than I might have been otherwise. I love it when directors or studios cast an actor known for one type or style of work, especially comedians, and place them in a different setting where we see them challenged in new/different ways that usually result in a more fascinating piece of work by virtue of the outside influences and persona that performer brings with them. That is kind of what is happening here though maybe not to the extreme of, say, Jim Carrey in The Truman Show. Rather, Stoller is being challenged by the limits of a PG-rating and how far he can go with his comedy inadvertently forcing him to be more creative with how he comes up with the laughs needed for a 90-minute children's film. And so, how does all of this hype and build-up effect the final product? Well, in many ways this is a disappointment when considering the potential the film had considering the interesting premise, its insanely talented and funny voice cast, and of course the presence of Stoller in the director's chair. Instead of producing anything unique or of distinguishable value Storks more or less plays by the rules of Pixar and DreamWorks movies where the narrative sees a couple of characters going on a quest to achieve a goal that will allow them to discover new things about themselves along the way. There's nothing especially wrong with this structure especially when executed in fun and interesting ways and Storks certainly has its quirks, but more than anything the film feels far too routine to be a product of someone who should have really been challenging themselves. Full review here. C-

Despite not being a huge sports fan, the fact I'm from Arkansas weighs heavily into me seeing Greater AKA the story of Brandon Burlsworth AKA the story of the greatest walk-on in the history of college football. While I don't typically tend to venture out of my way to screen movies like When the Game Stands Tall, Woodlawn, or My All-American the significance of Burlsworth's story to the only sports team that matters in The Natural State made me feel something of an obligation to see what all the fuss was about. As I imagine those aforementioned films do (none of which I've seen) Greater means to be one part inspirational sports drama and another part inspirational faith-based film. There's nothing innately wrong with this, but movies with such reputations tend to be made on shoestring budgets and with amateur actors that only lessen the credibility of the cheesy sermons and singular perspectives typically conveyed. While Greater is certainly guilty of both of these things and at the same time essentially canonizes its main character the overall effect on this particular viewer, who I again recognize has stronger ties to this story than someone watching it in Vermont, is one that works in the way I imagine the makers of the film hoped it might. Executive produced by and starring Neal McDonough as Burlsworth's older brother, Marty, the film tells the inherently rousing and equally tragic story of Burlsworth's life from the cradle to the grave giving into the pratfalls of most biopics that tend to take this approach. At ten minutes over two hours Greater is a tad lengthy and it shows in certain spots. Not focusing in on some of the more interesting aspects of Burlsworth's journey such as the details and dynamics of how he was able to remain on the team and gain a scholarship ultimately take away from the films opportunity to really zero in on and explore a certain aspect of Burlsworth that might have better explained why he was the type of man this movie tells us he was. That said, director David Hunt (who wrote the script with Brian Reindl) offers some inspired and interesting ways of conveying certain story elements that will have viewers feeling the full weight of the loss of a person such as Burlsworth whether they are a fan of another SEC team or not a fan of the sport at all. C

I have defended myself for being nearly thirty years-old and never really getting into Oasis or their music in the mid-nineties (though I was only nine or so when they peaked so I don't really have to defend myself) by stating that I was the oldest of my siblings and thus had no older brother or sister to guide me in the direction of what was hip or cool at the time. I had to blaze my own path, dammit! This applies to other, more mature music and movies of that decade that I'm still not overly familiar with or don't have a strong nostalgia for, but I mention Oasis due to the obvious fact there is a new documentary surrounding the toxic band that could never get far enough past themselves to see what more they could have been to the rest of the world. Going into such a music documentary where I wasn't overly knowledgeable of the band, their history, or their music (I mean, I know "Champagne Supernova" and "Wonderwall", of course) I based how I would gauge the effectiveness of the documentary on whether or not I was inspired to search out and listen to more music by the band once the credits rolled. And to its credit, director Mat Whitecross' take on the band and their insanely fast rise and even quicker fall is as swift and level as one could hope to achieve when you're unable to get the two key members of the group you're focusing on in the same room for interviews. In other words, having to shape a single story from what would no doubt be two very different perspectives comes off more effortless than it likely was to actually pull off. Told solely through video clips that are cut together to form something of a re-enactment of the scenes and events being described Oasis: Supersonic is almost exactly what one would expect from a film titled as so, but through this easily recognizable structure and to someone uninitiated with the mythos of Oasis I found the enlightening early moments of how both Noel and Liam Gallagher fell into their roles in the band and how they evolved as the group gained more and more notoriety to be gripping and more than telling as to why the band met the fate it ultimately and inevitably did. Like a ticking time bomb waiting to explode the elements that made up the Oasis its fans will forever remember were never destined to remain together forever, but only long enough to produce the music they brand as timeless and curate the impressions and attitudes that will unfortunately always overshadow those songs. Full review here. B-

Rob Zombie seemingly does his horror deal again, but I didn't care to bother with 31.