On DVD & Blu-Ray: July 18, 2017


In the vein of Marc Webb going from (500) Days of Summer to The Amazing Spider-Man and Colin Trevorrow from the quaint Safety Not Guaranteed to Jurassic World, Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures have plucked indie director Jordan Vogt-Roberts from the safety of his summer getaway that he so lovingly crafted in his 2013 break-out, The Kings of Summer, and thrust him into the world of blockbusters with literally one of the biggest stars in Hollywood history: King Kong. In an effort to re-boot the property that hasn't been touched since Peter "Lord of the Rings" Jackson's epic attempt in 2005 and build a cinematic universe a la Marvel with Gareth Edwards 2014 iteration of Godzilla, WB and Legendary have given Vogt-Roberts the keys to Skull Island AKA the home of the titular Kong and several other species of creatures, most of which are prehistoric in nature, but in other cases-are species that come straight from the pages of an old school horror/fantasy novel. A place where those who own the earth really reside, the place that God forgot to finish. The place where not only a human tribe somehow still resides, but so is there proof of dinosaurs, of more than one Kong, and of devils from the deep that the best character in the film affectionately refers to as "skullcrawlers". And so, the question is-what has the director done with such an environment to elevate the mythology it inherently carries? What has he done to give this mythical island a real sense of place and of substance and of tangibility? Well, the answer to that question is more positive than what the response might be to, "How good is the movie overall?" as the movie itself is pleasant and fun enough, but the real value in the piece comes from seeing that of Kong do what audiences want to see him do on a large scale and creating a full-on world in which these unbelievably thin characters and rote plot exist. It is because this world in which these things exist does indeed feel so lived in and palpable that much is forgiven. Even the special effect that is Kong himself holds more weight and authenticity than one might expect with the film eliciting a real soul from the beast which is more than it can say for the majority of its human cast. This is all to say that Kong: Skull Island certainly has its issues and could benefit from having at least one protagonist other than the movie's eponymous monster that we could sympathize with, but in a strange turn of events the spectacle holds more significance than the non-existent emotions and ideas it seems to have never had any ambition of carrying. In that regard, this is very much decent enough popcorn entertainment-fine if not completely forgettable. Video review here. Full review here. C+

"Everyone's from somewhere," says gun runner Vernon shortly after his introduction in director Ben Wheatley's (Kill List, High-Rise) Free Fire. Vernon, as played by South African native Sharlto Copley, is observing the plethora of people who have ascended upon an abandoned warehouse in Boston in 1978 to buy some of his guns. These people come from all over; some from Ireland, others from America, and further there are those of different ethnicities to be considered. This melting pot of participants bring history, prejudice, and a laundry list of assumptions about one another to the table. These preconceptions inform the tone of where each individual might register in the likelihood of who they're going to snap at and could potentially inform us of how this particular scenario was going to play out even before it did, but instead such quirks are only relied on for humor. Each of these men, these proud, overcompensating men tell us the clichés of their ancestry and fire insults back and forth with one another that same heritage being the punchline of most of them. Given the odd amount of time devoted to jokes and jabs about it, we assume there might be a point to it all in that they come to see past the error of such ways and that despite what someone might have heard or been told about a culture that it doesn't necessarily apply to all or that, at the very least, the stereotype might be something of an embellished truth. But no, Wheatley along with co-writer and frequent collaborator Amy Jump have no time for depth, leaving such ideas on the table and only using those clichés and stereotypes for the aforementioned comedic purposes. That isn't to say that a film can't have fun and be good while having no substance whatsoever, but it is saying that if this is the route your movie chooses to go it better be damn good at accomplishing what it sets out to accomplish and Free Fire just isn't. The idea is there, that is clear. The ambition is admirable, no doubt. Still, Free Fire never seems able to reach the heights of what Wheatley or Jump likely had in their heads when they were writing and storyboarding the project. Having only seen High-Rise prior to this and not being a fan of that film there might be an inherent hesitance toward the director's work, but there seems an obvious disconnect between the idea that spawned such a movie and the execution that has delivered the disappointing final product we see play out on screen. Full review here. D+

I was actually quite interested in seeing this independently financed, two hour and fifteen minute old school epic from director Terry George (Hotel Rwanda) and starring Christian bale, Oscar Isaac, and Charlotte Le Bon, but it's hard to continue to muster excitement for what has been labeled a slog and whose abbreviated moment has certainly already passed. Set during the last days of the Ottoman Empire, The Promise follows a love triangle between Mikael (Isaac), a brilliant medical student, the beautiful and sophisticated Ana (Le Bon), and Chris (Bale) - a renowned American journalist based in Paris.