On DVD & Blu-Ray: April 11, 2017

Hidden Figures could have easily been one of those films that plays things right down the middle. Mainstream to the max. A standard structure with a likeable cast delivering an uplifting and equally heartwarming story that inspires us all to live our lives in something of a better fashion and to many ends-it is exactly that. That may sound as if I'm coming out the gate reducing the film to cliché via expectation, but it is how Hidden Figures both uses such identifiers to its advantage without reducing itself to those overused thoughts that make it charming while still routine. Exciting while ultimately a little obvious. It is a film with just the right amount of sass and just the right amount of authenticity to meet somewhere in the middle between a made for TV movie and that of a larger budget biopic, but this time with three central characters rather than just one formerly famous person. What Hidden Figures does so deftly is suggest how well-known its three protagonists should be rather than playing off how well known they clearly aren't. That their accomplishments are far greater than anything any musician or actor might be able to contribute to society, but due to the fact their profession is much less attractive (and their circumstances even less so) than performing on stage they seem fated to go down in history with little to no recognition. As these things tend to go though, Hollywood can't ignore a good underdog story, but when this is true in terms of something as large as the legacy of both the three individuals whose lives this film chronicles as well as all the women and women of color that these three stand to represent, such Hollywood reliabilities aren't always such a bad thing. From the director of the safe, but pleasing St. Vincent comes another competently made piece of cinema that exercises its big heart and sentimental streak in ways that are familiar, but that are executed so well and with such strong characters that it's impossible not to find yourself drawn to the satisfying journey Hidden Figures takes us on. Juggling three individual arcs with multiple facets within each and a scope that deals in the space race of the 1960's Hidden Figures is certainly a much more ambitious project than that of director Theodore Melfi's previous film, but one that he handles with assured grace as in only his second feature Melfi has proven he has the rare talent of crafting movies that are unabashedly feel-good while not allowing the saccharine aspects to overstep their boundaries forcing the story and the characters that craft that story to be as authentic as the beats are familiar. Video review here. Full review here. B-

Lion is one of those films that is as pure in its intentions as it is obvious in them. There is no hiding the fact that this "based on a true story" Oscar-hopeful adapted from Saroo Brierley's account of his own journey in the book, "A Long Way Home" is meant to be anything less than an inspiring and uplifting experience. The good news is that those intentions are so genuine that one can't help but to be unconsciously or willfully manipulated by the emotions the film plays on. That is to say, if one is willing to submit themselves fully and without any kind of pessimism or outright cynicism then Lion is a treat that will garner your investment first in the life of its protagonist and then in their plight. There aren't many flourishes here and the storytelling is rather straightforward and predictable, but there is something to the way that director Garth Davis moves through these familiar beats that lend them such an authenticity that it never feels as if the movie is attempting to create false emotion where none exists. Rather, it is simply presenting the facts of a story that elicit such natural responses. There is nothing overly exceptional about the film and Davis doesn't exactly place a particular visual or directorial style on the piece, but rather Lion is very much a middle of the road awards contender that appears to be little more than as much based on its story and credentials. It is able to transcend such labels through the process of the otherwise humbling experience it creates. Much of the films heavy lifting is done in the first half where Saroo is portrayed as a child by the infinitely precious Sunny Pawar as opposed to the second half where face on the poster Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) searches for interesting places for the script to take him as his more matured Saroo deduces his place of origin through the help of the then just-launched Google maps. It's not so much that the second half of the film falters, but more that it is never able to keep pace with the more insightful and moving first half. Given we become so invested in Pawar's performance and Saroo's predicament though, we're naturally inclined to be interested in the details of how his story wraps up. It is in this conclusion that Lion shows its greatest strength in that all that has come before truly pays off in the most affecting and sincere of ways. Full review here. B-

Toni Erdmann is enjoyable, but not quite as profound as others have claimed it to be.

There are a few genuinely hilarious as well as equally touching moments, but rather than applaud the nearly 3-hour runtime this ultimately detracts from the effectiveness.

I want to, but I don't get it. C

Calvary was one of if not my favorite films of 2014.

War On Everyone could very well be on a list of the worst films I saw that were released in 2016.
How writer/director John Michael McDonagh can go from something as decidedly honest and unpretentious while touching on themes as big as faith to something so false and obvious while seeming to have no other intent other than to lampoon a certain buddy cop caper of a certain era is beyond me.

Alexander Skarsgård and Michael Peña are selling the shit out of this, but it's so vulgar and uninhibited for the sake of nothing other than that vulgarity and desperation to be perceived as cool that we come away empty-handed. It's destroying buddy cop clichés while having nothing new to say about them. If there was an idea for some type of commentary here is has been lost in the process from script to screen.

Malcolm Barrett is rather good, though. F+

Monster Trucks is about a high school senior (played by 26 year-old Lucas Till) who is looking for any way to get away from the life and town he was born into. It honestly looked terrible, but I've heard it actually isn't and even contains a bit of good fun to be had, but the premise that goes on to describe Till's character resolving his issues by building a Monster Truck from bits and pieces of scrapped cars only to wreck it near an oil-drilling site where a strange, subterranean creature with a taste and a talent for speed befriends him still sounds so trippy. I may have to see this one out of pure morbid curiosity.

The Bye Bye Man is one of those January horror flicks that gets dumped in the early months of the year among the roll out release dates for many an Oscar contender as they open across the rest of the country that simply hopes to capture its teen demographic. Given January is typically a time to catch up on prestige pictures for adults the younger crowds get schlock such as this which attempts to create a new iconic horror villain through a story that chronicles three friends who stumble upon the horrific origins of this mysterious figure who they discover is the root cause of the evil behind unspeakable acts. Sound vague? I think that's because there is hardly any story or semblance of actual characters here...or so I've heard. I won't be wasting my time on this one.

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