On DVD & Blu-Ray: September 5, 2017


I haven't seen Very Bad Things. I know that, especially after seeing Rough Night, I need to. That 1998 Peter Berg film more or less has the same premise as this new film with writer/director Lucia Aniello and writer/star Paul W. Downs (both of Broad City fame) switching up the genders and making it a male prostitute that gets killed at a bachelorette party rather than the other way around. I provide this context (and the context that it's been a while since I've seen Weekend at Bernie's) to say that my view of Rough Night might significantly alter after having seen that film, but as of right now what I can say about this female-centric comedy is that it is...okay. It's another one of those comedies that has otherwise well-behaved individuals behaving badly and thinking that the only way to have funny things happen is to have people act out on all different levels of crazy. I'm still waiting for modern comedies to catch up with half hour sitcoms and realize not all humor has to come from people going off the rails, but rather it can be funny and is often funnier when the laughs are elicited from the mundane and small, but honest truths of life. I'm not saying no feature comedy has ever tapped into this before, of course they have, but I am saying there's been a discouraging trend lately that deals in groups of friends and/or co-workers acting outrageous in the face of whatever the plot throws at them. I'm also not saying that such comedies can't be done well or in effective ways-I would still hang out with the guys from The Hangover movies just because their rapport was lightning in a bottle and I enjoyed both Neighbors films due to their twist on the idea-but when a trend seeps its way into the consciousness of funny and creative people and convinces them that the default way to make audiences laugh is by writing about people who act outside their comfort zone for nothing more than the sake of potential embarrassment then it's time to reassess what kind of comedy really works and Rough Night feels like a prime example of why it's indeed time to reassess. Rough Night is a movie about bad decisions that makes a few of its own while the overall mood the experience will undoubtedly leave you with is one of indifference; indifference in the sense that it will quickly be considered irrelevant so when, twenty years down the road, this premise is inevitably rehashed once again movie pundits will likely still look to Very Bad Things as a point of comparison rather than Rough Night. C

Since his death over twenty years ago Tupac Shakur has become something of a prophet in his legacy; a deity of the rap world in which the mythology only continues to grow-building a perception and persona of a man who held some secret as to how our society operated and why when, and this is the most valuable thing the new biopic All Eyez on Me offers, it seems the alarmingly young Shakur was still very much trying to figure out who he was never mind the bigger questions the culture he was raised in implied for his future and the future state of our world. All of that to say director Benny Boom (Next Day Air) and his team of three rather novice screenwriters had a lot to overcome in order to deliver a final product that was not only satisfying, but relevant in terms of adding something substantial to the conversation around the life and times of Shakur. There has been a barrage of material released since the artist's untimely death in September of 1996, but All Eyez on Me would mark the first narrative feature and arguably the one with the best odds of reaching the widest audience. With this weight and presumed pressure of responsibility on his shoulders Boom has delivered what is more or less a by the numbers biopic for what was very clearly an individual who couldn't have operated by the numbers if he wanted to. Shakur was a man who seemingly had a constant conflict of conscience going on within him-attempting to balance the obligation he felt he had as an orator for the black community while simultaneously looking to solve such societal issues in the moment which often times resulted in compulsive acts of violence and/or spouting things from his mouth that he didn't consider before saying them in front of a rolling camera. And while All Eyez on Me and its look-alike lead in newcomer Demetrius Shipp Jr. does in fact attempt to delve into this clash of consciousness Shakur constantly dealt with it's never able to transcend the tropes of the music biography enough to allow the audience to understand what cultivated and motivated these feelings. Sure, we see flashbacks galore and are privy to relationships in Shakur's life many might not be aware of that inherently give new light to this persona that has been crafted by the media and his constituent's since his death, but none of it to such an extent we feel we're inside the mind of Tupac thus restricting us from feeling like we've seen the real story of the man's life. Full review here. C

Zoe Lister-Jones transfers from television regular (New Girl, Life in Pieces) to her directorial debut with seamless ease as she not only writes and directs, but produces, stars in, and composes the original songs in this inspired debut. Earning her multi-hyphenate status with flying colors Band Aid is a clever little indie that deconstructs not only the relationships between men and women, but the different perspectives in which each of the individual sexes approaches life and, of course, relationships. If unfamiliar with the premise, it goes a little something like this: Lister-Jones's Anna and Adam Pally's Ben are a married couple who can't seem to stop fighting, but clearly have a deep affinity for one another. Instead of simply packing things up and immediately calling it quits at the first sign of trouble Anna and Ben have continued to stick it out despite things becoming increasingly tense as of late given life doesn't seem to be cutting either of them a break. And so, in what feels like a last ditch effort the couple, along with odd neighbor Dave (Fred Armisen), start a band that turns their fights into songs. This freeing and liberating experience seemingly giving Ben and Anna the outlet and motivation they need to get the rest of their lives back on track. Band Aid is more than just a cute idea though, as it looks to tackle some tough subjects and more complex emotions than its hipster facade and poster art might have you believe. Jones's writing is thoughtful in both the improvised songs she and Pally play off one another as well as in the more dramatic fight scenes that come off not as eloquently written monologues, but naturally stifled retorts that aren't always able to express the whole of what either character is feeling which is where the grade-A performances come in as Jones and Pally certainly have a chemistry with one another that transcends even their most heated arguments. Not to mention the fact the film is consistently funny throughout while never failing to speak to that inner-artist in everyone that yearns to create something more, something outside themselves that speaks to who they are rather than being limited to being judged by a single success or failure. A

This Sean Penn-directed drama titled The Last Face about the director (Charlize Theron) of an international aid agency in Africa who meets a relief aid doctor (Javier Bardem) amidst a political/social revolution, and together must face tough choices surrounding humanitarianism and life through civil unrest was released to little to no buzz in the middle of the summer between Theron's villainous turn in F8 of the Furious and her leading lady role in Atomic Blonde and between Bardem's villainous turn in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and next week's twisted Aronofsky project, mother!, will seemingly meet the same fate on home video as even the Blu-ray art looks like a cheap direct-to-DVD actioner that should star Kellan Lutz and Katherine Heigl rather than the human drama it so desperately seems to want to be. Count me out on this one.