On DVD & Blu-Ray: April 18, 2017


It's hard to remember, but there was a time when a new M. Night Shyamalan film was an event in and of itself. In 2002, at the ripe old age of thirty-two, there might have been no more hotly anticipated film of the year than the director's fifth film, Signs, but that was only his third feature since defining himself as the auteur he seemed destined to be. Fifteen years later and we are in a very different time and space. After the success of Signs (over $400 million globally on a $72 million budget) the studio system continued to only throw more and more money at the writer/director and increasingly his films became examples of trying too hard to do what his first few features had seemingly done with such ease. After 2008's utterly confounding The Happening it seemed Shyamalan might have given up completely as he then resorted to being a director for hire on projects like The Last Airbender and After Earth, but even in these endeavors he experienced some of the more scathing reviews and certainly some of the worst box office returns of his career. Where was the director to go? What was there to do next that might reinvigorate his career? Did this once glorious storyteller that Newsweek magazine so famously labeled "The Next Spielberg" even care to continue to put forth effort and/or art into the world or was he done? In one way or another it feels like we haven't had the real Shyamalan with us for some time. That the person he was in his early thirties had been lost to the grueling system and there was no certainty as to whether he'd ever come back. In truth, Shyamalan hasn't taken a break longer than three years in between films since his 1998 film Wide Awake and those three years came in between Airbender and After Earth. It was only two years after the nepotism on a spaceship tale that was Will Smith's After Earth that we caught a glimpse of who we thought Shyamalan was and might become again. I didn't write about The Visit, Shyamalan's 2015 feature that experimented with the found footage approach, but it was a deliciously pulpy little thriller that not only provided a signature Shyamalan twist that worked with the rest of the narrative, but melded the humor, the uncertainty, and the tension of the situation in ways that felt organic-as if the marriage of story and image were flowing out of the director like they hadn't in some time and this upward trend in quality only continues with Split. Like The Visit, Split is primarily set in a single location and relays a rather simple story in both interesting and horrific ways. It is a portrait of a character and in being that it explores a subject with multiple personalities it might be something of a twisted self-portrait from a director who was labeled as one thing, attempted to remain that thing until he was told he wasn't good at that thing anymore and then tried something else only to fail thus forcing him to re-invent himself once more. Video review here. Full review here. B-

In The Founder, Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc favors the saying, "fortune favors the bold," but the question that comes to mind as the The Founder reaches its denouement and shows us not just what Kroc became in the professional world, but who he became as a person is just how bold was this guy? As it turns out, quite. There were risks involved in his journey that were never guaranteed to pay off and he arguably had a vision no one else did-or at least the balls no one else had to risk it all. In the end, fortune obviously favors Ray Kroc, but at what expense to his humanity and decency? Some may say such things don't matter when you're worth $500 million, but in those final moments of The Founder where Kroc rehearses lines for a speech he stole from old motivational records when his wife, who he also stole, walks into the room and he catches her eye-there is a hint of self-awareness; of knowing that there was a price for all that he now looked down upon. Keaton, in all his charming and endearing glory, snaps his face out of the thought that dazed him only for a moment as if to say such was a price he'd gladly pay again and again. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence he tells himself-not talent, not education-persistence is key. It is in this train of thought, this idea that Kroc is never complacent or content with his life that confounds though as the movie that now tells his life story tends to air on the side of being exactly that-content. Directed by John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side, Saving Mr. Banks) The Founder is a perfectly acceptable slice of cinema as it is obviously well-crafted, hits all the right notes, and features a handful of appealing performances with Keaton being a whirlwind of as much sly charm as he can possibly muster-carrying this thing across the finish line with ease. It's not that there is anything particularly bad about the film, but there isn't anything that is rather exceptional either. Instead, The Founder more or less delivers what is expected of a biopic these days with only slight indications that there was a deeper, more cutting ambition to the project that maybe took a backseat to safety. There have been many a comparisons between The Social Network and this film with their protagonists being ruthless men who take ideas from smaller thinking men and turn them into multi-billion dollar businesses, but where David Fincher's film had a specific tone and a certain state of mind that was in place from the get-go, The Founder never feels as personal or alluring. It, ironically, never feels bold enough to transcend its genre lines. Full review here. B-

I unfortunately missed what seemed to be a fun little action throwback in the form of Sleepless this January when I was trying to catch up on all the awards contenders that were finally opening in my neck of the woods. I'll certainly look this one up on Vudu at some point and give it a go as I not only find Jamie Foxx in an interesting place in his career, but with a supporting cast that features Michelle Monaghan, Scoot McNairy, David Harbour, and Gabrielle Union I'm enticed as to what all attracted them to this project. The film follows a cop with a connection to the criminal underworld who must scour a nightclub in search of his kidnapped son.