On DVD & Blu-Ray: December 6, 2016


One should not approach the latest from Illumination Entertainment with the lofty expectations of the emotional devastation and weight brought on by the Pixar films, but rather set their sights and mood in a different general direction all together. Of course, with the kind of impactful and more substantial stories that Pixar tells they are intending to make something of a lasting impression on viewers, but the folks at Illumination-the same ones who created the Despicable Me and Minions movies-aren't really up for that-at least not yet. Rather, their latest original offering, The Secret Life of Pets, is a complete farce of sorts-a straightforward comedy that has no intent of connecting on some deep, emotional level with the audience, but instead simply hopes to skate by on its absurdity and slapstick. This can only result in good things as far as comedy goes and by virtue of that mentality it is the comedy that is the best thing The Secret Life of Pets has going for it. To push the Pixar comparison further I went in expecting something akin to Toy Story, but with animals. Given the tone and perceived concept that was conveyed in that first, rather stellar trailer it seemed that was what we were getting. Like Toy Story, the idea of what your pets might do all day while you're at work could be a fascinating world to explore (and maybe they'll stick to this premise in the inevitable sequel), but this movie deviates from that idea rather quickly and becomes more an "animals on an adventure" type movie in the vein of something like Homeward Bound, but with much more ludicrously improbable situations. And that's fine. Really, it is. Not every animated movie has to shoot for the stars and bring about a narrative that is designed to capitalize on momentous moments that forever influence the course of our lives and The Secret Life of Pets is a completely acceptable animated family movie that displays the different types of animated family movies that can be made without trying to hue as close to the Pixar brand as possible. I rather enjoyed the entertaining diversion that is The Secret Life of Pets and I laughed: a lot. Granted, the lack of any emotional investment will lead to that subsequent lack of any lasting impression, but somehow that doesn't seem to matter when what's in front of you is as fun as this is.Video review here. Full review here. C+

After nearly a decade in seclusion and having resorted to bare knuckle brawling for petty cash Jason Bourne resurfaces with the simply titled Jason Bourne, but was there really a need for him to? Given the pristine state of the original trilogy (I didn't mind The Bourne Legacy as much as some, but don't mind forgetting it either) there was hesitance on my part to come to terms with the fact director Paul Greengrass (Supremacy and Ultimatum) and star Matt Damon could potentially ruin what didn't necessarily need another chapter. Of course, I really enjoy the Bourne films and the prospect of another was naturally enticing, so...double-edged sword. That said, the biggest obstacle this new film was going to have to overcome was that it has in fact been nine years since Bourne was on the big screen and given time goes on there would have to be something almost cataclysmic happening if Bourne had somehow managed to stay out of the spotlight this long and then suddenly be pulled back in. This was the code Greengrass and co-writer Christopher Rouse (who has served as the editor on all of the Bourne films) were going to need to crack if they were going to have fans of the series buy into the fact Bourne was indeed back and it is here that the cracks instead begin to show in their lack of inspiration rather than the other way around. Essentially giving Julia Stiles' character, Nicky Parsons, the task of delivering exposition before telling Bourne that she has somewhat involuntarily pulled him back into this world he has been working so hard to evade things already smell funky. Without going too far into spoiler territory is to simply say that the biggest hurdle this film was going to have to overcome is basically dismissed with a single line of dialogue and then not really taken into account again due to the fact it seems Greengrass and Rouse know they don't have the best justification for the films existence. Still, once we do get past this initial hurdle in the first act of the film Jason Bourne becomes what we know and recognize from the previous films. If that is what you're looking for then you'll no doubt come out more pleased than pissed. As a Bourne fan, I had a fine time with the film and enjoyed several of the story elements, but that it did feel so familiar was disappointing. The story of Jason Bourne is one of the rare instances where it became more intriguing with each additional film, going in different directions than expected and adding new layers to the titular characters past, but while Jason Bourne once again discovers more of his past here the film fails to go anywhere new with its narrative. Video review here. Full review here. C

John is Jim and Jim is John and in his new movie, The Hollars, John is simply John. We're talking about John Krasinksi of course who parlayed his likable everyman gig on The Office for nine seasons into a brand all its own with which he will now try to both break (13 Hours) and embrace (The Hollars). In Krasinski's second directorial effort what we have is your standard tale of a white man who's been given little if nothing to overcome in this society other than his own emotions and how he deals with such emotional conflicts when his mother falls ill in the small town he ran away from long ago. It is in returning to this not only small town, but the man's hometown that we know our protagonist will learn lessons that might help him deal with his mental constipation. Naturally, there is a cast of quirky family members who are designed to be specific in certain ways, but just broad enough in others so that we may all find someone to relate them to in our own families. In venturing back to his homestead John with the titular last name rather than Krasinski comes to learn things about his parents and his other family members that he'd never been privy to before; intimate and mostly ugly details he doesn't necessarily want to know or see, but as something of the family savior he finds it his responsibility to try and put them back together. It is in this idea, this story arc that The Hollars attempts to differentiate itself from this genre of defeated middle aged men returning to their roots to remember who they really are by reminding themselves of where they came from. It is in this idea that the one who fled to search for more is the one who fled not wholly out of ambition, but also from the pressures imbued upon them by their clan. In The Hollars, John is the only character whose life is fairly average-he really has little to complain about aside from the fact he may not be where he imagined himself professionally at this point, but otherwise he lives in New York City and has a rich/hip girlfriend in Rebecca (Anna Kendrick) who is expecting their first child. The guy more or less has his stuff together sans a few emotional shortcomings, but it is in these emotional shortcomings that the crisis drives him to some interesting and introspective places that are hinted at through his re-connections with his hometown, but that Krasinski brushes over too broadly for them to really resonate instead resorting to genre cliché's to round out his movie. Full review here. C

I know. I need to see Mike Birbiglia's Don't Think Twice like yesterday. I want to. Trust me. At the first open moment I will.

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