On DVD & Blu-Ray: March 7, 2017


I've been watching a lot of The Little Mermaid lately thanks to my two year-old daughter and like Ariel, Moana faces a father who is something of a control freak and who stands in the way of her and what she feels is her destiny. The difference in the plights of Ariel and Moana come very quickly though as rather than a forbidden romance, Moana simply wants to explore the waters of the sea out past the reef that surrounds her people's island. So, in short, they actually long for the exact opposite of one another, but you get the point. This analogy of sorts works throughout Moana as the latest from Disney Animation plays very much to the strengths and structures of its predecessors while making just enough tweaks to appropriate it for the current cultural landscape. Meaning directors Ron Clements and John Musker, who both not-so-surprisingly wrote and directed not only The Little Mermaid, but Aladdin, Hercules, and The Princess and the Frog among others, know what they're doing, but more are well-aware of the anatomy of a Disney movie and how best to perform such a feat as creating something that is both fun yet familiar. Creating a place audiences can go to find a refreshing bit of nostalgia in the Disney animated musicals of old while witnessing the marvels of today's animation as their children soak it all in for the first time the moral of Moana is that there will always be new generations of audiences who need to be coaxed or have a gateway to those aforementioned Disney hits of the nineties. Moana is very much an amalgamation of all that has come before it while encapsulating all that Disney's brand of animation can be moving forward. Taking cues from those that have come before, acknowledging them in humorous ways, and then going on to execute them in exceptional ways Moana is something of a treasure that never slows down (save for the obligatory bit of self-doubt that must be overcome in the third act) and continues to surprise by not necessarily going in any unexpected directions, but more by being as creative as possible in the approach it takes to those directions. It is difficult to describe exactly how a movie that brings so much joy is capable of doing just that, but I was unable to drop the smile and/or awestruck expression from my face for the entire runtime. For this and for its keen sense of when to borrow and when to innovate Moana was easily my favorite animated film of 2016. Video review here. Full review here. A

There's a moment that comes forty-five or so minutes into Jackie where the former first lady boldly strides into her husband's quarters for the first time since his death and proceeds to play what she recalls as his favorite number from the musical, "Camelot," while trying on much of her wardrobe, sitting in chairs, smoking, sitting in rooms, and admiring swatches of material she no doubt had glorious plans for; soaking in all that will soon be gone, the tragedy, the full comprehension of what our titular character is going through just washing over Jackie herself-maybe for the first time since her husband's death with the full force of reality. There is a plethora of delicious dialogue in Noah Oppenheim's screenplay, but it is moments such as this-moments that require no words where director Pablo LarraĆ­n excels at cutting to the heart of what motivates our titular character, what allows her to push on with life, and most impressively what gives Jackie the ability of allowing the audience to understand an individual's challenging ideas and decisions in the midst of unfair circumstances that are also undoubtedly the worst days of her life. Jackie follows former first lady Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman) in the week following the assassination of her husband in 1963, but that is what is to be expected from a biographical film concerning Mrs. Kennedy. What one might not necessarily be prepared for, but that Jackie certainly delivers, is a closely compacted study of the balance a woman in her (singular) position must pull off when concerning themselves not only with the here and now, but what people will write about her and her husband for decades to come. The ideas of legacy and of shaping that legacy come easier to viewers who obviously know what the myths around the ever-regal Kennedy clan have come to be, but Jackie opens our eyes to the fact such myths have to be constructed in some form or fashion. People like to believe in fairy tales and, for Jackie, it seems the goal was always to purport this facade that embodied the noble and majestic lifestyle of her husband's favorite musical. While Jackie, the film, looks to more or less deconstruct those myths-revealing the thought process and truths behind the scenes-the film also weirdly works to build up that myth even more albeit with more of an eerie tone than that of the mysterious one Jackie might have preferred.Video review here. Full review here. B

From the director of Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and San Andreas comes Incarnate, a seemingly schlocky horror film starring Aaron Eckhart as a scientist with the ability to enter the subconscious minds of the possessed who must save a young boy from the grips of a demon with powers never seen before, while facing the horrors of his past. Consider this a hard pass. 

Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson star in Trespass Against Us, a feature directorial debut from Adam Smith and first time screenwriter Alastair Siddons about a man looking to find a way to escape the criminal ways of his outlaw family. The film received generally positive, but unenthusiastic reviews when it premiered at TIFF last year and while it's probably a fine enough film I feel no great urgency to seek it out.

Shia LaBeouf, Jai Courtney, Gary Oldman, and Kate Mara star in this drama/thriller set in a post-apocalyptic America where former U.S. Marine Gabriel Drummer (LaBeouf) searches desperately for the whereabouts of his son, accompanied by his best friend and a survivor. Man Down actually played at TIFF two years ago when I went, but while I was hoping to see either this or Eye in the Sky I actually ended up seeing neither. I did watch Eye in the Sky just a few weeks ago though, and enjoyed it so maybe I'll catch up with this one eventually.

I've heard a lot about this supposedly crazy horror flick from Portugese is especially good, but haven't had a chance to check it out yet. At a mere hour and sixteen minutes it certainly isn't asking for a lot of time, so this will certainly stay on my "Must Watch" list. Written and directed by Nicolas Pesce The Eyes of My Mother is about a young, lonely woman who is consumed by her deepest and darkest desires after tragedy strikes her quiet country life.  


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