On DVD & Blu-Ray: February 7, 2017


It's difficult to not feel indifferent about a movie like Trolls. In the end, it's fine. Is it somewhat offensive in terms of originality and cheap covers of gloriously good pop songs? It could certainly be taken that way, but when taking into consideration the target audience for this latest DreamWorks animated adventure it's hard to get too frustrated with the rote story Trolls tolls out or the advantage it takes in remixing recognizable songs into auto-tuned Kidz Bop versions you could have certainly lived without. Of course, Trolls doesn't mean to offend, but rather it simply means to entertain a fairly wide age range of kiddos while at the same time giving tried and true lessons that deal in being true to one's self in order to find happiness. No, Trolls is neither a good film nor a particularly bad one, but more it is simply one that exists to colorfully distract for an hour and a half only to mostly be forgotten the next day. No harm, no foul. Trolls is ultimately something of a mix between DreamWorks own Shrek series as far as character types go while more or less the same story The Smurfs told us as far as being small creatures who live in peace and harmony while having to battle a much larger being who threatens to eat them among other evil things. There wouldn't be anything necessarily wrong with restructuring these archetypes and plotlines were Trolls interested in doing anything fresh or interesting (and when I say interesting I, obviously, mean weirder) with as much as they've given themselves to work with, but by simply slapping a variety of pop covers throughout rather than going full-on musical and ultimately being more harmless than memorable this movie isn't exactly the kind of product a studio wants to put out if they want to retain any type of credibility. Though it really is difficult to say anything downright terrible about Trolls the bottom line is this was a product made to move merchandise and that it actually turned out as competent and sometimes even as fun as it is shouldn't be forgotten. Sure, one could point out the desperate lengths movie studios are now going to in order to cash in on brands given the troll dolls were first popular in the sixties (with a resurgence in the nineties) or one could point to The LEGO Movie as a film based on toys/superfluous junk that actually turned out rather inspired and great, but somewhere in the middle of those truths and thoughts we find Trolls; just happy to have been given enough room to dance and sing and hug. Full review here. C-

Much goes unspoken in Loving, but that shouldn't be a surprise given it comes from director Jeff Nichols who has given us such restrained and meditative pieces as Take Shelter and Mud, not to mention his slight venture into genre territory earlier this year with Midnight Special. Still, Loving is something of a different beast. As with most of Nichols films the multi-hyphenate again deals in its main male character working through a particularly life-altering time in his life. Whether it be a man working through understanding an illness, heartbreak, or a parents love for their child Nichols is clearly attracted to these leading male characters that carry burdens of one type or another-none of which can actually be drawn as distinctly as I've just done. In Loving, this Nichols quality is born in the form of Richard Loving as played by Joel Edgerton who is a simple man who loves a woman just as simply, but is told he can't due to the race laws that plagued the time in which he was born. What separates Loving from Nichols filmography thus far is the fact Nichols has yet to adapt a true story or any other source material for that matter for one of his films. They have all been original concepts and ideas that have allowed the writer/director his own ways/styles of telling his own stories, but with Loving he has crafted a film very much in the vein of his previous works while still seemingly allowing the genuine spirit of those who actually lived this story to come through. Nichols accomplishes this by not making up much of his own dialogue for the real-life people to say. Rather, Nichols allows much of what needs to be said to be said through the performances of Edgerton and his co-lead Ruth Negga as Mildred Loving. In doing so, Loving ends up not as an overly schmaltzy or sentimental love story or even a melodramatic courtroom drama, but instead a subtle study of how simple true love can be despite how complicated our world can make it. Full review here. B-

I was rather enticed by the trailer for Ewan McGregor's directorial debut, an adaptation of Philip Roth's 1997 novel American Pastoral, but it received scathing reviews after its debut on the festival circuit last fall. So damning were the reviews that it seemed any hope invested in the film was lost as it didn't receive anything more than a limited theatrical run, never even opening in my neck of the woods. As the film, which follows an All-American college star and his beauty queen wife who watch their seemingly perfect life fall apart in 1960s America, has finally arrived on home video today though, I'm (possibly morbidly) curious as to how something that looked so promising turned into something rather disastrous.

Another film I desperately wanted to see based on the appealing trailer that never came to screen in any of my local cinemas was the second directorial feature from Jonás Cuarón (son of Alfonso) titled Desierto. Following a group of people trying to cross the border from Mexico into the United States who encounter a man (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who has taken border patrol duties into his own racist hands the films trailer promised a tension-riddled piece. Scoring a solid if not right on the edge rating of 60% on Rotten Tomatoes it felt as if Desierto could simply never find a comfortable place to rest on the release calendar despite having its trailer screen before several large releases in the theater. Now that the film has made its way to Blu-Ray and DVD though hopefully it will find a home.

Starring Jamie Dornan, Sarah Gadon, Aaron Paul, and Molly Parker The 9th Life of Louis Drax is based on a novel by Liz Jensen and was adapted for the screen by Max Minghella (who starred in The Social Network among other things). The film tells the story of a psychologist who begins working with a young boy who has suffered a near-fatal fall who finds himself drawn into a mystery that tests the boundaries of fantasy and reality. I didn't hear much about the film prior to its release and didn't hear much after either leaving me feeling rather uninspired as to whether or not I should give the film a watch.

Michael Shannon and Imogen Poots star in this psychosexual noir love story, set in Las Vegas and Paris, about love, obsession, sex, betrayal, revenge and, ultimately, the search for redemption. Frank & Lola was written and directed by Matthew Ross who has written and directed several short films before, but his big feature debut was another small, independent release last year that failed to gain any real traction. With an encouraging 66% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes though, this one seems as if it might be worth checking out once it inevitably ends up on Netflix.         

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