On DVD & Blu-Ray: November 14, 2017

From director David Leitch, one half of the team that brought us the refreshing and uniquely packaged John Wick as well as the guy who is spearheading next year's Deadpool 2, comes Atomic Blonde-a female version of John Wick set in the eighties, with tons of eighties music, action, action, and starring Charlize Theron as the titular blonde who doesn't mind messing up her make-up as long as a cool soundtrack is laid over her walking away from her fights. Yeah, I'd love to see that movie. Who wouldn't, right? It would seem anyone who loves having a good time while sitting in an air conditioned auditorium eating food that's not going to help you look like the people you're watching (at all) and staring up at an expansive screen would be thrilled by the combo of Theron, eighties, and action. I was certainly psyched. And then...please! No "and then"! And then it happened. Yes, it happened. After an equally ecstatic and moody introduction to this world in which we'd be existing for the next two hours the movie rapidly descended into a rather slow-moving, narrative heavy slog that would only intermittently bring us a sequence where Theron's Lorraine Broughton was allowed to let loose. But boy, when Leitch and screenwriter Kurt Johnstad (300) allow their leading lady to show off she certainly doesn't disappoint. This is also what is ultimately so frustrating about Atomic Blonde as it rather frequently gives us glimpses of what it could have been, what it was advertised to be, and what it seemingly wants to be as the action scenes are inspired, the backing tracks to Theron kicking ass are killer, and the film generally looks great-capturing the tone of late eighties Berlin by coating everything around our main character and her exploits in drab shades of gray to emphasize the burst of energy Broughton brings with her when she walks in a room. And yet, for one reason or another, Leitch decided to allow long stretches of his movie to become overly involved in Johnstad's plotting when what made both the original John Wick and its sequel so much fun was the simplicity of the plot and the building of an interesting world. Atomic Blonde doesn't build a world as much as it recreates one; Atomic Blonde doesn't keep the emphasis on the action, but wants audiences to take its twisting plot as seriously as Leitch no doubt takes his stunt work, but while Atomic Blonde feels carefully constructed and as precise in all aspects a director could hope it also never feels as fun or entertaining as it was meant to be. Full review here. Video review here. C

Writer/director Taylor Sheridan (Sicario, Hell or High Water) likes his symbolism. He both begins and ends his directorial debut, Wind River, with a fair amount of it. The opening of his film, which takes place in Wyoming on the Wind River Indian Reservation sees a literal wolf circling a herd of sheep. Wind River ends with a simple image of two fathers sitting in the background while an empty swing set comes into focus in the foreground, the two empty seats swaying in the light winter wind. How Sheridan's film gets from a rather generic piece of symbolism in the form of a common saying to one that is potentially layered with meaning the viewer can attribute to it due to the journey they've just witnessed is what makes Sheridan's use of this tool so effective. Obviously, Sheridan is a gifted writer who has a knack for building atmosphere and tone and integrating them into the natural environments in which he places his stories, but what had yet to be gleaned was how much of such satisfactory works came from the writer himself and how much was elicited and interpreted from his screenplays via renowned directors like Denis Villeneuve and David Mackenzie. With Wind River, Sheridan lets it be known that he possesses more than capable hands when it comes to bringing his written word to life and, more importantly, conveying the themes and ideas through these visuals that he clearly had an interest in discussing when penning the screenplay. While Wind River doesn't necessarily possess a unique structure or revelatory plot-in fact, it's a rather simple murder/mystery movie-what it does possess is an assuredness in how it wants to tell this story and a clear idea of the aspects of this true story that it wants to highlight so as to be both affecting and insightful while still remaining a familiar conceit. The familiarity of the structure and approach is perfectly balanced by that of the desolate-seeming landscape though, which is only emphasized further by the environment no doubt feeling foreign to any viewer that doesn't reside in Wyoming themselves. It's chilling. There are flat fields that seem to go on forever covered in snow with a dead silence that drenches it all which inadvertently seems to inform the locals of the bleakness of their existence. It is in setting a murder/mystery in this already devastated domain that Wind River strikes you; through such aforementioned symbolism that it compels you. Full review here. B+

At first, Brigsby Bear may seem like the definition of what has come to be expected from a Sundance movie meaning films that often break out at the Park City, Utah film festival are those that include quirky characters doing things only quirky people such as themselves have time for in light of real-world tragedies and/or challenging times. Think Me and Earl and the Dying Girl or Napoleon Dynamite. By such expectations Brigsby Bear would most definitely check every box necessary to qualify for Sundance's quirkiest of offerings, but like those aforementioned films these movies still tend to succeed in their objectives because beneath the seeming pretense of being bound and determined to be as weird and peculiar as possible there is genuine heart that exists. These pictures ultimately come from a place of real emotion, of real life experiences, and have seemingly only been materialized into a full-on motion picture due to the fact the writer or writers were able to tap into a fun premise in which they could work through their feelings and thoughts. With Brigsby Bear, Saturday Night Live's Kyle Mooney and co-writer Kevin Costello seem to be coping with the fact they've actually made it to the point they can make a living by utilizing their creativity. Coming from San Diego and attending the University of Southern California it likely always felt within the realm of possibility that Mooney might be able to reach such heights, but it also seems likely he was constantly surrounded by those also attempting to make it many of which no doubt failed to achieve such ambitions. It's a double edged sword I'm sure whereas, for someone such as myself who lived in rural Arkansas for the majority of my life, achieving such success or even coming across such opportunities always felt like a pipe dream. For Mooney though, Brigsby Bear more or less cements this feeling that he's finally being let it on the inside of the joke rather than being left out in the cold or rather, that others are finally beginning to get hip to the brand of humor and personality that Mooney has possessed for some time. Either way you slice it, Mooney and Costello along with director Dave McCary (an SNL crew member) succeed in capturing the spirit of this abstract idea that is creativity and relaying not only what it means to the creator, but to those affected by it. Full review here. B+

Amityville: The Awakening has been supposed to open for what feels like forever. The last I'd heard was when I posted in February of 2016 that the film would be released that April, but here we are a year and nine months after the studio released that trailer and the film has still never received theatrical distribution. Rather, the Bella Thorne/Jennifer Jason Leigh horror flick is now being quietly released on home video (after Halloween, for one reason or another) where it will no doubt fail to be found as well. What a strange, but fitting fate for a movie no one wanted in the first place.

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