On DVD & Blu-Ray: November 21, 2017


Director Patrick Hughes has three directorial credits to his name; one I've never seen, another the watered down third installment in the Expendables franchise, and a third in this late-in-the-summer entry cleverly titled The Hitman's Bodyguard that seems intent on capitalizing on the penchant of its two stars for choosing cheap and easy over challenging and risky. Such choices typically provide audiences a few laughs and producers failed financial returns so why Lionsgate thought this might be the exception to the rule is uncertain. Whether it be Ryan Reynolds in disasters like R.I.P.D. or the mildly intriguing but woefully undercooked Self/less to that of Samuel L. Jackson in any number of the projects he tends to choose in between Tarantino and Marvel flicks (think The Man or Formula 51) the fact of the matter is it seemed pretty obvious what we were getting into from the moment the first trailer for The Hitman's Bodyguard was released no matter how much of a surprise it might have felt like it could potentially be. Sure, the premise is cute, but sole screenwriter Tom O'Connor (Fire to Fire AKA one of those direct to DVD Bruce Willis actioners) does little to nothing with the main idea and mostly puts the naturally charismatic personas of Jackson and Reynolds into tired buddy cop scenarios that result in a stale story and a bland experience that is neither consistently funny enough for us to excuse it's formulaic narrative or dark enough to challenge us in unexpected ways. This brings to light the real issue going on within The Hitman's Bodyguard in that it doesn't have a real idea of what it wants to be. Rather, Hughes pulls O'Connor's obviously uneven script in so many different directions that it ultimately fails to succeed in any one of the many genres and/or styles it attempts. I'd like to imagine that Hughes really thought he was pulling off something special and legitimately fun by getting back to the kind of balls to the wall, abundance of blood, unafraid to show death in spades-type action movies that Steven Seagal, Nicolas Cage, or even Harrison Ford might have made twenty some odd years ago, but while Hughes shows us these tendencies time and time again they are either executed so poorly they render themselves empty or they don't lean far enough into any one genre so as to play to the strengths of the tropes of that genre-remaining somewhere in the middle of all these things it wants to be without actually being any of those things. Honestly, it will be a wonder if the film leaves any impression on viewers other than how its use of soundtrack rivals that of last year's summer movie season closer, Suicide Squad. That's the only thing I'm still laughing about; its blatant disregard for how such tools are supposed to be utilized which, coincidentally, effectively summarizes the root cause of everything that goes wrong in this movie. Full review here. D

It's all about context, people. As an individual who thoroughly enjoys and kind of revels in the imagining of what's beyond our own solar system and, by default, creating something unique and fascinating out of that imagination I am always intrigued by something that looks like Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Intrigued being the key word here as there is always the potential for such an experiment or endeavor of such imagination to go off the rails in ways that it can't maintain or doesn't think through. With Valerian, director Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, Lucy) has adapted a French science fiction comic series that is no doubt close to his French heart, but while "Valérian and Laureline" (which would have seemingly been a better, simpler title) was first published in Pilote magazine in 1967 and went on to become one of the top five biggest selling Franco-Belgian comics titles for its publisher, Dargaud, one has to wonder if Besson's vision is what original creators Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières imagined their imaginations becoming some fifty years later. I've never read the source material and this may very well be in line with exactly the kind of style and tone Christin and Mézières utilized in their original stories, but one has to wonder about the purpose of style and tone then and the purpose of as much now. Is the more irreverent and frankly, rather goofy tone in response to other science-fiction adventures being more serious or was that how it was originally intended to be read? With something of a farcical quality to it? I'm sure someone on the internet will be more than happy to oblige my curiosity with a detailed answer, but the fact of the matter is it doesn't really matter what the original intent was or how well or not well Besson has adapted the material because we're here now-in a post-Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets world that just so happens to exist in the same world that is post-Star Wars, and post-Guardians of the Galaxy, and hell, even post-John Carter so what is it about Valerian that differentiates itself and does it differentiate it for better or worse? For me, Valerian is a step in the wrong and a rather bizarre direction. Sure, it has some interesting visual ideas and some fun sequences, but with dialogue this bad, a rather hackneyed story that attempts to disguise itself by accentuating its bizarre elements, and a completely miscast Dane DeHaan I can't help but to feel Valerian might have been better off left on the page than having come alive only to find itself dead in the water so soon after. Full review here. C

I feel like I can make a fair assessment of the movie I'm about to watch simply by the quality and inventiveness of its title card and/or opening credits. Sometimes these factors indicate nothing, but other times they can indicate something wholly crappy or what will be nothing if not an inspired trip to the cinema. There is just something about the way this opportunity can be executed that seems to somehow connect with how far the directors were willing to go to make every ounce of their film thrive. This is all to say that Good Time has a pretty fantastic one and from the moment the title card breaks up the opening sequence to the tune of Oneohtrix Point Never's (otherwise known as Daniel Lopatin) blazing score culminating in a moment of pure cacophony that continues through to a bewildered Robert Pattinson in extreme close-up's that make the tone all the more manic, we're so taken off guard that we're now seemingly prepared for anything. It should also be noted that directors the Safdie brothers (Heaven Knows What) open their film with a shot akin to that of the opening shot of The Dark Knight suggesting a scale of epic proportions even if they might not have the budget to back it up, but still-they have the ambition. Not coincidentally, the post-title card sequence shows Pattinson's Connie Nikas taking his mentally handicapped brother, Nick (Benny Safdie), and using him to help him rob a bank. The actual robbery is played not for action, but is actually rather subdued to the point it would seem Connie and Nick might actually pull their small-scale heist off, but if that were the case we'd have no movie and so when the cops finally do come to pursue the brothers and capture Nick with Connie barely evading them we are twenty-plus minutes into the flick when the credits begin appearing on the screen; Lopatin's score again throbbing like the pulse of the movie it is. Pattinson's face once again carries an expression of confusion as he makes his way through back alleys and hallways to try and evade the police for as long as necessary. This breaking up and timing of the title card and opening credits is a stylistic choice that is implemented in the fashion that it is in order to both guide the audience through and let them in on the fact that Good Time is going to be one hell of an unpredictable ride. The Safdie brothers delivering an epilogue of sorts that encapsulates everything the rest of the movie will attempt to demonstrate through its actions. In essence, the Safdie's set the stage in such a manner that while it seems the narrative is largely improvised from moment to moment that in reality, Good Time knows exactly what it wants to be and succeeds at being just that. Full review here. B-

There is nothing particularly memorable about Leap! an animated film being released by The Weinstein Co. that was originally titled Ballerina when it premiered in France and the United Kingdom last winter. That said, there is nothing particularly offensive about it either. Rather, Leap! is a sincere attempt to re-visit and reiterate age old lessons to the younger generations that continue to be born and require reassurance that they too can accomplish their dreams with hard work and dedication. That is essentially what Leap! comes to be as it sells the underdog story of a young girl who overcomes obstacles such as being an orphan in order to accomplish her dreams of becoming a ballet dancer. The film earns some credibility and points for uniqueness by taking the chance of placing itself in a period setting for no other reason than writer/directors Éric Summer and Éric Warinwhich wanted to which would seem to inherently be a reason for youngsters to disengage, but alas the movie chugs along not missing a beat despite the fact parents who have seen any movie ever will be able to guess the beats Leap! will seemingly follow. This never becomes an issue though, as the film sets its audience up to accept this then revels in the setting allowing it to influence the different approaches the movie is able to illustrate in regards to our two protagonists key passions. Félicie (Elle Fanning) with her dancing and Victor (Dane DeHaan) who is an inventor with an affinity for devices that might help us to one day fly. All of this endears us to the two of them immediately as not only are they orphaned and living in the midst of the late-1880's, but despite as much they have hopes and dreams and are bound to find a way out of their situation no matter how difficult Luteau (Mel Brooks), the groundskeeper at the orphanage, fights to keep them in line. The groundwork is laid early for what the viewer can expect as far as narrative goes as well as for how Summer and Warinwhich will handle the craft of this type of storytelling that relies on such unsurprising, but well-intentioned clichés. What Leap! has in its back pocket is that none of these obvious or typically telling factors corrupt the ever-glowing optimism that it holds and delivers through to its predictable, but appropriately cheery conclusion. Full review here. C

Jungle comes from director Greg "The Darkness" McLean and stars Daniel Radcliffe as Israeli backpacker, Yossi Ghinsberg who, in 1981, meets a cryptic Austrian geologist in La Paz, Bolivia, and captivated by his engrossing stories of lost tribes, uncharted adventures and even gold, decides to follow him. Accompanied by good friends, Kevin (Alex Russell), an American photographer, and Marcus (Joel Jackson), a Swiss teacher, they join an expedition led by their seasoned trail-leader, deep into the emerald and impenetrable Amazonian rainforest. However, as the endless and inhospitable jungle separates the inexperienced team Yossi comes to find himself stranded in the depths of a nightmarish environment crawling with formidable and tireless adversaries.

Beach Rats, from writer/director Eliza Hittman, received positive buzz out of its Sundance premiere earlier this year, but I didn't hear much from it after that. The film chronicles the life of an aimless teenager on the outer edges of Brooklyn who struggles to escape his bleak home life and navigate questions of self-identity, as he balances his time between his delinquent friends, a potential new girlfriend, and older men he meets online.

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