On DVD & Blu-Ray: December 27, 2016


For the second year in a row now we have a fictionalized account of real-life events that were already well-documented in award-winning documentaries starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt doing weird accents. And, much like The Walk, the biggest obstacle Snowden was going to need to overcome was that of the one for its own relevancy. Not only did most of the American public see the splattering of media coverage when the Snowden story broke in the summer of 2013, but many also watched Laura Poitras' Oscar-winning documentary, Citizenfour, that was released in 2014 and chronicled how Poitras along with Guardian reporters Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill traveled to Hong Kong to meet with Edward Snowden and discuss how to break the news of the information the whistleblower was willing to leak. That rather riveting documentary was more than enough to give us a portrait of who this man was and why he did what he did without going into overly dramatized flashbacks or even divulging all of his professional history with the CIA and the military. Solely through how he presented himself in the current circumstances he was facing at the time of Citizenfour viewers glimpsed what type of man Edward Joseph Snowden is and what he might have done were he presented with the dilemma of going along with a CIA field operatives dirty plan or standing up to that more seasoned field agent and doing what he felt was right no matter if it meant him resigning from the agency or not. While we could have likely guessed what path Snowden would have taken given the virtues and sentiments he doles out in his Citizenfour interviews for some reason director Oliver Stone has found it necessary to go back and fill in those gaps just in case you didn't get it. While the idea of a feature film around Snowden isn't inherently a bad one what Stone has chosen to do with the material in telling a straightforward account on the life and times of Snowden in the twelve years leading up to the incident that would make him the, "World's Most Wanted Man" make the idea seem downright unnecessary. Given this is exactly the type of territory Stone has always enjoyed covering, especially when he has a particular point of view on the subject and wants nothing more than to convince you he's right, I expected Snowden to offer a compelling and thoughtful argument and examination for and of the actions Snowden took and why they should be celebrated rather than slammed, but while Stone's position is evident there is nothing here to compel an indifferent viewer one way or the other. Video review here. Full review here. D

It is evident from the word go that When the Bough Breaks is campy trash, but the most critical question campy trash always has to answer is whether or not it's fun campy trash. Director Jon Cassar has worked on many a television series which makes sense because When the Bough Breaks is very much along the lines of what the Lifetime network routinely produces. Everything feels rather staged and mostly inauthentic save for a single character who seems to be the only one in this universe within which such movies as this take place who understands real struggle while everyone else walks around-money being no object-without a care in the world. One might think, given these circumstances, that When the Bough Breaks might be a bit of a relief to the onslaught of tentpoles and big-budget/high concept offerings the summer movie season has just delivered in that it is (technically) an original story that remains just familiar enough to attract the necessary audience to justify its existence-not to mention it's a movie mostly made to cater to adults. And yet, this familiar story of seduction offers nothing new by way of cheap thrills or even openly ridiculous tension. Rather, Cassar's film takes itself so seriously and genuinely yearns to be a somber drama that it turns into a plodding and rather boring affair instead of pure trashy fun. That the film doesn't bother to have any fun with its otherwise farcical tone is a shame as trying as hard as the film does to come up with credibility when all they have is camp only makes the final product that much worse. To those points, When the Bough Breaks is a movie that will take more heat for what it stands for and represents rather than the actual content in produces. This meaning that the pieces are in place-Morris Chestnut and Regina Hall are seasoned veterans of this type of melodrama (unfortunately) and audiences can go through the motions of the film knowing the story beats that will clearly be hit and yet despite all of this being somewhat blatant rip-offs of other movies we've seen over the years both Chestnut and Hall as well as newcomer Jaz Sinclair are each more than capable of pulling anxiety and tension out of the situations their characters find themselves in. Still, When the Bough Breaks is overall a lazy if not competent thriller that could have just as effectively been directed by a board room as it has been a man for hire like Cassar. Full review here. D-

American Honey would have you believe that everything that happens in America happens at magic hour. That golden period in the day just before sunset during which the daylight is redder and softer than when the sun is higher in the sky. From depicting everything from its core group of ragtag door to door magazine salesman doing their best to scam the neighborhoods of middle America to seeing Jake (Shia LaBeouf) and Star (Sasha Lane) consummate their distressed relationship the film finds comfort in the waves of color exerted by the evening sky. American Honey, directed by Scottish-born filmmaker Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank), would have you believe that the underbelly of America is one of harsh lines between the white trash and the wealthier classes that populate the southern regions of the country though to disparage the cracks in American culture to little more than two distinct categories is one of the films unfortunate misconceptions that is apparent from the get-go. Were it not for the clear intention of American Honey to be this sprawling epic at nearly three hours this lack of delineation would be more forgiving, but that it truly gives itself time to develop its characters and the landscape in which they exist one would like to have been delivered a more complex portrait that better mirrors the melting pot one can easily see this country to be by simply driving through any county in as random a state as Arkansas. Residing in a state most likely tend to forget about in the grand scheme of our nation, Arkansas keenly displays the actuality of just how gentle those lines between classes can be. Still, this nagging flaw that is present throughout Arnold's nearly three hour thesis on what is both so discouraging about the United States and what makes it so simultaneously charming can't tear down the entire effort from being valiant as American Honey is ultimately a sweet ode to our misfit of a nation. The film goes on too long and doesn't have enough of a narrative drive or intriguing enough character arcs to invest our own selves in, but somehow it remains engrossing-uplifting even with its inability to acutely examine class relations rendered somewhat unnecessary by the films ability to display the inherent hopefulness in each of us despite all the ugliness we tend to be surrounded by. Full review here. C+

I watched what could be considered some very strange films at 2015's Toronto International Film Festival, but I don't think any of them were as weird or out there as Jocelyn Moorhouse's The Dressmaker. This movie, you guys, is completely bonkers. You wouldn't think so given the look of the poster and the fact it stars such credible and well-respected talent such as Kate Winslet, Hugo Weaving and Judy Davis, but once this thing gets rolling it is both surprising and distracting as to how ridiculous things become. As I watched the events of the film unfold I couldn't help but to keep writing down again and again how I couldn't believe they were going where they were going and yet, the film kept going...one step further. Now, to be clear, this isn't strange or ridiculous in the sense of bombastic violence or discussing things typically considered far too taboo for everyday discussion, but more in the sense of general absurdities. Having not directed a film in nearly twenty years and operating strictly in Australia this would seem to be a fine opportunity to return for Moorhouse and there is plenty of stuff to have fun with here despite the fact I wasn't able to get on board with all of it. With Winslet leading the charge (though she seems miscast) Moorhouse and her ensemble of misfits that make up this small town in Australia endeavor to deliver a perfectly cheeky little screwball comedy that is able to hold a slight amount of substance rather than being completely flippant. Full review here. C

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