On DVD & Blu-Ray: January 10, 2017


In director Gavin O'Connor's (Warrior) latest film, The Accountant, the films titular character and our protagonist is one that operates on the high end of the autism spectrum. The character is a math savant who has utilized his high-functioning skills to cook the books for several high-profile criminal clients that would seemingly stack the character's pockets, but may also serve as a threat to Christian Wolff and his legitimate, small-town CPA office. It's a hell of a way to set-up intrigue around a character while simultaneously bringing attention to those who function a little different from what society considers to be the norm especially when the film makes such a character as much a superhero as they do here. As Wolff, Ben Affleck is not only a genius when it comes to numbers, but he's been nurtured into something of a killing machine by his militaristic father (Robert C. Treveiler). The film then combines these elements of Wolff's personality while mixing in a U.S. Treasury investigation led by the soon to retire Ray King (J.K. Simmons) and his forced apprentice of sorts in Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) that leads Wolff to take on something of a legitimate client in a major robotics company run by John Lithgow. This plotline also introduces us to the obligatory love interest in Anna Kendrick's Dana, but mostly The Accountant is about Affleck kicking ass and counting numbers with the amount of plot Bill Dubuque's (The Judge) screenplay attempts to pile on only serving to take away from the more interesting character study that's trying to peek out from behind all the storylines. And while the film does indeed suffer from something of an identity crisis while at the same time playing into the fact it knows fully what it is by embracing the inherent goofiness of an assassin accountant it never stops being entertaining. Even as the plot jumps from Wolff's main mission to that of the Treasury investigation, and onto the third party tracker embodied by the always charismatic Jon Bernthal and back to Wolff there is always something to keep us invested even if what is doing so feels scattershot. This would typically be a detriment to a film given it signals a lack of trust in the lead characters ability to sustain audience engagement, but under O'Connor's steady hand The Accountant makes one feel just satisfied enough by the time they're done consuming it without actually offering anything of nutritional value. Video review here. Full review here. C+

There is something to this formula director Peter Berg and star Mark Wahlberg have cooked up together. They've found a composition of elements that when brought together in their capable hands more than appeals to a large type of audience while simultaneously being thrilling and intelligent enough for the seasoned moviegoers to look past the standard genre elements they fit squarely into. This formula largely resides in the telling of American stories that focus on the little guy. The man's man who isn't sitting somewhere in an office with a suit on pulling the strings, but rather the men on the front lines. This is appealing to a whole region of the country not accustomed to seeing mirrors of themselves on the big screen in such big budget productions, but Berg and Wahlberg (lots of German ancestry going on here) have now told two sweeping stories concerning two "based on real life events" (and have Patriot's Day going wide this weekend) that are more or less simple stories when taken at face value, but that permeate more meaning about the state of affairs in our country and world than a pointed essay about the state of affairs in our country and world ever could. This is how Berg captures his core audience and pleases his critics: he's able to say something boldly heroic about the men who risk their lives for others or perform in composed and exceptional manners when finding themselves in a set of insane circumstances while hinting at what this illustrates in the larger scope of things. In essence, it is those who are unassuming and voluntary in their heroics who continue to be the pulse of this country's integrity and not the house of governmental leaders or the big business tycoons who cut corners and jobs for their own personal gain. Thus the reason why the big business tycoon or better yet BP, AKA what was once known as British Petroleum, but changed their brand to that of "Beyond Petroleum" in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, fulfills that role of the antagonist here. Why that spill happened, which resulted in severe environmental, health and economic consequences, as well as serious legal and public relations repercussions for BP, happened in the first place is the story Deepwater Horizon is telling and much like their previous collaboration, Lone Survivor, Berg and Wahlberg tap into a real understanding for the value of life and that it is not worth throwing away for inconsequential details such as how many days past schedule one large oil and gas company might be. Video review here. Full review here. B

Nate Parker's The Birth of a Nation plays with the title of D.W. Griffith's 1915 silent film to reappropriate its phrase of a title to no longer be used in a deprecating manner towards black people. Griffith's film (which is a requirement in any film school due to it being widely accepted as the first feature length motion picture) used blackface to portray African American characters while, given the time in which it was made, is also wildly racist in many regards. For Parker to be willing to challenge a term and the cultural baggage that goes along with it that has now been established for over a century is bold. This boldness ultimately works in his favor though as his film certainly stands to make a statement. Coming off a whirlwind debut at the Sundance Film Festival at the beginning of last year the film scored a record for the most expensive acquisition deal in the festivals history with Fox Searchlight snatching up Parker's slave drama for an astonishing $17.5 million. Of course, in the months after that acquisition stories re-surfaced about the seventeen year-old case in which The Birth of a Nation's director, writer, producer, and star was accused and acquitted of sexual assault and that four years ago the woman who accused him committed suicide. Such allegations can of course not be taken lightly and it doesn't exactly bode well for Parker that he depicts or suggests two savage and humiliating rape scenes in his film as performed by malicious and one-dimensional Caucasian villains, but to let those allegations influence the judgement of this piece of art he has created feels unnecessary. Sure, this is solely a product of Parker's doing as he had a hand in every stage and facet of this production and thus his particular view of the world undoubtedly made its way into the DNA of the film, but to allow such outside influences such as actions from nearly two decades ago to come into account for a piece of art made by an individual who has no doubt grown, matured, and maybe even changed in that time period isn't wholly fair. And I understand-neither was what he was accused of doing. It wasn't fair that the repercussions of his actions might have contributed to the accuser's death, but taken on its own terms-only as a piece of filmmaking depicting an ugly time in history that simultaneously attempts to re-write multiple generations worth of certain interpretations of history- The Birth of a Nation is a powerful and unapologetic film that uses that aforementioned boldness and an appealing saga of revenge to craft something memorable if not exactly transcendent. Full review here. B

The long delayed then quietly released Max Steel is said to be horrible or, as my partner on Intial Reaction put it, "Disgusting." The film, starring Ben Winchell, Maria Bello, and Andy Garcia, follows the adventures of teenager Max McGrath and his alien companion, Steel, who must harness and combine their tremendous new powers to evolve into the turbo-charged superhero Max Steel.

Kevin Hart's annual stand-up comedy event is now available for audiences to bring home as the comedian uses this years effort, What Now?, to intertwine a narrative of sorts throughout his set as performed in front of a crowd of 50,000 people at Philadelphia's outdoor venue, Lincoln Financial Field.  

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