On DVD & Blu-Ray: February 28, 2017


Moonlight is one of those films that anytime your mind tends to float back to it inevitable feelings of great sympathy and understanding come with it. It is a film that both simply and oh so complexly transcends all barriers of politics and beliefs and presents a bare bones human story that just so happens to deal with being black and being gay. It's always been clear, especially from the outside looking in, that the culture that forms young black men is one of the most high-pressure environments. Forcing one to be tough, hard, or essentially show little to no feeling at all. "Toxic masculinity" as it has been labeled in recent writings. There has long existed the stigma that to be hard or worthy of being a man one must be largely indifferent to those things that naturally give us weakness in the world. By tackling this idea and how it affects the growth and development of one underprivileged youth is at one time to present exactly what it promises while at another-painting a much broader picture of this toxicity that has been constructed by society for which many young men are led to believe there are certain actions that have to be taken or certain attitudes that must be adopted in order to make them worthy of being a man. This doesn't have to necessarily deal with sexuality, but more this condition is about those stereotypes of men-emotionless, dominant, violent-that society has relayed to determine certain levels of masculinity. That Moonlight addresses such expectations and the baggage, the torture, and the living hell such expectations can carry when not met in the judgmental environments of the projects or of high school or even of one's mother who knows the essence of her son, but isn't strong enough herself to stand up to such stigma's thus leaving that child for the wolves of the world is powerful enough. That Moonlight is able to explore these largely ignored aspects of manhood in such poetic and provocative ways as through the lens of a young man growing up black, poor, and gay only makes these points that much more enlightening and subsequently-that much more powerful. Moonlight is a film that, anytime you think about, are reminded of, or even consider the ground it covers and the essence of what it embodies not only in its ideas and themes, but in its nearly flawless execution that feelings of great sympathy and understanding come as well. More than anything, writer/director Barry Jenkins understands the human element at the core of these issues and by parlaying as much through the single perspective of Chiron at three different stages of his life we are delivered a fleshed out portrait of the true internal tendencies versus the ideals we're taught we should become. Full review here. A

From the outset where Marvel Studios shows off its brand new logo that features clips of its heroes in action from previous films rather than clips of art from their older comic books it is clear just how much of a brand this studio and their particular type of super hero films have become. What is more telling though, is just how aware Marvel is of this fact and how boldly they state their accomplishments in this re-branding of their title card. This slight boasting by the company sets up good and bad expectations for the film that proceeds it as Doctor Strange very much operates within the familiar world Marvel has built while at the same time reminding us of just how high Marvel can fly leaving this rule of a movie to be something of a letdown. Of course, that is the one glaring barrier all Marvel movies now have to overcome in how do they not just play as large scale TV episodes, but more singular stories that feel worthy of the big screen treatment. It's not necessarily that Dr. Stephen Strange isn't worthy of such treatment, but more in the pantheon of all Marvel has done before and all it plans to do in the future this initial outing with the soon-to-be Sorcerer Supreme feels as brisk and as superfluous to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as The Incredible Hulk now ranks. Not that Doctor Strange doesn't introduce a whole new dimension of possibilities to the MCU, but were this film to not work out the way Marvel expects it to for some reason they could essentially ignore its existence and move on with the physical dangers the film tells us The Avengers protect our world from. That won't happen, of course, but that's the type of indifferent feeling director Scott Derrickson's (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Sinister) take on a Marvel property unfortunately conjures up. Making this worse is the fact that Doctor Strange features some of the more daring and downright trippy visuals that have been seen in a Marvel movie as well as some of the weirder sequences in the studios filmography that, while visually enchanting, make it even more apparent just how standard the narrative is. Why Marvel and Kevin Feige were willing to go out on something of a risky limb with their visuals as well as just how far Strange can push his powers, but not with the story that brings the titular Doctor into the world of magic and mysticism is a little perplexing, but at the end of the day it's clear this is a board room picture designed to change up Marvel's winning formula just enough so as to appear to be something new and different, but what in reality will rely on the same tricks that have guaranteed consistent hits for eight years now. Video review here. Full review here. C+

There is much to be said for Allied-a film that desperately wants to pay proper respects to its influences of yesteryear, but there is an equal amount with this most prestige of all prestige pictures (at least based on its credentials and story, if not the awards attention it will never receive) that goes unsaid in ways that leave the viewer hoping for more, but receiving very little. The costume drama/wartime romance that is Allied is a film that should, by definition of those involved, be something of a rejuvenation of the genre rather than one that follows the rules of it for mediocre results. With the likes of Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Cast Away, The Polar Express) directing one would expect the film to take the preconceptions of the time period and the genre and apply them to a unique or at least more interesting way of capturing this material, but if anything Zemeckis actually plays things as straight as possible delivering not necessarily a bad movie, but a safe if not masterfully made one. If there is one thing Allied excels at it is letting the viewer know how good looking its two stars are in multiple, era-appropriate fashions while also seeming to overly focus on just how young Brad Pitt is still capable of looking. Granted, there is clearly some type of digital touching up to Pitt's face, but why bother outside of keeping in step with the overall glossy aesthetic of the picture is unclear. Moreover, the dazzling aesthetic, impressive set designs, and elegant costumes would all still be just as appreciated and impressive if not more so if they weren't so much of what the film has going for it. Instead, they are the prime focus of positives as the narrative feels somewhat lacking despite being a genuinely intriguing premise from which certain, very specific tensions can be spurned. In essence, Allied is a missed opportunity to make an old school war drama through the lens of modern filmmaking, but as the key element that is the story doesn't remain consistent in the high stakes of the drama it seems to so thoughtlessly spin Allied never manages to feel substantial in any way, shape, or form thus leaving the viewer with a decent movie-going experience, but certainly not a memorable one. Full review here. B-

The now infamous Warren Beatty writes, stars, and directs Rules Don't Apply, an unconventional love story about an aspiring actress, her determined driver, and their boss, an eccentric billionaire named Howard Hughes that stars Lily Collins and Alden Ehrenreich among a host of Beatty's friends that clearly didn't mind helping the guy out with what was apparently his passion project. That said, I haven't seen the film, but wouldn't mind coming across it at some point soon.

Naomi Watts stars in Shut In which was another of those horror films released last year that you didn't hear about until a week before it was dropped into theaters for a few days before disappearing again. Well, it has now resurfaced on home video and given the film, about a widowed child psychologist who gets caught in a deadly winter storm and must find a way to rescue a young boy before he disappears forever, didn't exactly take off with critics or audiences I find it hard to muster any motivation to seek it out.     

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