On DVD & Blu-Ray: October 24, 2017

It's a weird feeling, rooting for the end or at least the defeat of mankind, but that is what this new trilogy of Planet of the Apes films has done. Each of the installments has done so well at tracking the progression of how these apes, namely Andy Serkis' mind-blowing creation that is Caesar, have become more human-like in their emotions as well as their mannerisms that it has become harder and harder to differentiate between the fact that what we're technically watching is a man versus beast tale. Of course, it's easy to throw those two labels around, but who actually deserves to have the title of beast fall upon them is debatable and especially in this final installment. In the inevitable War for the Planet of the Apes we find series screenwriters Mark Bomback and director Matt Reeves (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) bringing the reinforcements that Gary Oldman's character made contact with in Dawn to the front lines and drawing the line in the proverbial sand. Reeves, who took over for Rupert Wyatt after the first installment, has crafted two distinct, but equally effective pieces of filmmaking that are as well-crafted as one could hope for. This film hits all the marks of a masterful technical achievement while at the same time deviating story expectations by not necessarily being generic summer popcorn entertainment, but a rather heavy and heady piece of cinema that has plenty of thoughts jumping around inside its head as well as layers upon layers of allusions to the point each individual viewer could potentially see and receive something different when experiencing them. That said, both Dawn and now War never display that factor that pushes either of them over the edge of good, solid entertainment into something greater. It's a difficult feeling to describe given it is also a difficult thing to come up with anything negative to say or anything that specifically detracted from the experience of viewing the film, but speaking to the emotional state you reach after said experience War leaves you with a strong impression of being truly impressive, visually magnificent, but not nearly as intellectually or emotionally stimulated as it seemed you would be about midway through the movie. War for the Planet of the Apes makes us root for its primate protagonists, but it never lends the viewer the weight it seems to desire nor does it hit with enough of an impact that it will leave you contemplating all those ideas it has floating around inside its mind in your own for longer than a few hours. It is grand without necessarily being epic, distinctive, but not necessarily special. Video review here. Full review here. B-

This may come as a shock to many of you, but The Emoji Movie is not good. In fact, it's really bad. Bad in the way that it doesn't even try much of the time. Bad in the way that it is intended to be a funny children's film with a message about championing individuality and being yourself, but even that tried and true formula falls flat. Did I say it was supposed to be funny? It's not funny. It tries, it has obvious attempts at humor, but it's not funny. Worse, it has a talented and typically hilarious group of people providing the voices for much of these humanoid expressions that exist in a world that doesn't make much sense in the first place. Let's start over as this would be the initial issue that only leads to more of these problems that spawn from the fact this is a movie based on emoji's. It would probably be big of me to say that this movie isn't bad simply because it is a movie based on emoji's, but it is. It represents everything wrong with the studio system from the perspective of attempting a cash grab without any measure of creativity or thought put into the actual work. There are no signs of life within this thing other than our protagonist going through the motions of feeling like an outcast, being brave enough to break out of his shell, and discover that it's okay to be different. That's all well and good, but you as well as your kids have seen this countless times before and The Emoji Movie brings nothing new to it with the fact it's emoji's going through these (e)motions only making it that much more grating. Worse even, it's beyond transparent that writer/director Tony Leondis (2008's terrible Igor as well as a few other animated shorts) and his two co-writers Eric Siegel (a TV veteran) and Mike White (Mike White!) could care less about the movie they are working on. No doubt receiving an assignment from head honcho's at Sony Animation that they needed something aimed at the kids after their one-two punch for teens and adults with Spider-Man: Homecoming and Baby Driver the studio latched on to current trends via The LEGO Movie and Wreck-it Ralph and demanded a movie based on those faces kids were using to communicate with on their phones. Leondis, Siegel, and White mix in a little Toy Story as well with hopes of no one noticing and yet The Emoji Movie is so distractingly bad that it doesn't become an issue of the movie being based around characters who are emoticons, but more the fact the whole thing never breaks through that barrier of convincing us why it's necessary. Video review here. Full review here. F

I wasn't sure how I felt about Personal Shopper until I got back to my hotel room after watching it and couldn't shake the feeling I was being followed. There is a weird, distinct feeling to the type of movie Personal Shopper is because it doesn't really feel like a movie as we've come to recognize them. Going into the film I had little knowledge as to what it was or what it was about other than the fact it starred Kristen Stewart and came from writer/director Olivier Assayas who also made the highly praised, but befuddling to me Clouds of Sils Maria (also starring Stewart). And so, while I was once again compelled to seek out the film due to the rave reviews it was receiving there was never a great sense of what I was getting myself into. While Personal Shopper doesn't fit squarely into any one genre it instead handles itself with the fluidity and unpredictability of real life where we simply take things as they come no matter how they might otherwise be classified. This is affirming in the sense that nothing is ever predictable about the film and one legitimately never has a clue where the film could go from one moment to the next, but it also makes the focus feel somewhat sloppy in its execution. Were there a clearer intent from the get-go the film's final moments might have been even more shattering than they already are. While there is plenty to feast on here, plenty of feels and subtle details that add up to something substantial as a whole the project is slighter than I would have initially imagined. Slight in that we never dig too deep into any one of those aforementioned facets that Stewart's Maureen is currently dealing with in her life. The slim script (the film runs a quick and quiet 105 minutes) hops from one point of stress for our protagonist to another-flustering both Maureen and the audience until the more supernatural elements of the script become the overwhelming interest in her life then causing everything else to begin to accentuate this point of conflict in terms of opening her eyes to what she's been searching for. What is it exactly that Maureen is searching for? There could naturally be one of a number of interpretations, but while I can appreciate what Personal Shopper does in its challenging of genre and the skill it displays in executing genuine chills it is ultimately more about what it has to say than what it actually says. Full review here. B-

Director David F. Sandberg who developed a short he made into last summer's James Wan produced Lights Out has officially entered Wan's horror universe with the release of Annabelle: Creation, a follow-up to the 2014 film that was itself a spin-off of Wan's The Conjuring from 2013. I haven't seen either of these Annabelle solo films thus far, but I enjoyed Lights Out enough for my interest to be piqued as to what the director might bring to what I heard was an otherwise terrible jumping off point. In this sequel/prequel Sandberg and writer Gary Dauberman (Annabelle, IT) tell the story of a dollmaker and his wife who, 12 years after the tragic death of their little girl, welcome a nun and several girls from a shuttered orphanage into their home where they soon become the target of the dollmaker's possessed creation. Given the rather impressive reviews this thing garnered I'm anxious to see the film, but even if the quality wasn't in the cards Warner Bros. was smart to rush release this onto home video just in time for Halloween when we're all looking for a (quality) scare.

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