On DVD & Blu-Ray: May 22, 2018

Red Sparrow is at once a movie that feels so calculated and well put-together that it should be obvious it knows what it is and yet this thing can't help but to feel all over the place. It knows what it wants to be, but doesn't accomplish as much. It has style for days and the feel of an epic spy saga, but the events that actually occur within these constructs couldn't feel more mediocre or forced. This is terribly disappointing considering the talent and money behind such a large, original production, but something about director Francis Lawrence's (I Am Legend, The Hunger Games franchise) latest never clicks in the way it should. Red Sparrow is one of those films that asks you to settle into it; where the viewer becomes so entrenched in the proceedings it should feel as if the viewer is still in the world of the film when walking out of the theater, but Red Sparrow never hits a stride in such a way that the audience is able to make this transition from spectator to participant. Instead, Red Sparrow quickly shows all of its cards by letting us know this thing is going to be as bleak and brutal as one can possibly imagine and then some. Red Sparrow is a film that takes advantage of its star's status and places Jennifer Lawrence in this role where she is trained to use her sexuality in ways that are to the advantage of the men controlling her (timely, eh?). Lawrence's Dominika as well as the movie itself consistently relay that she's doing what she's doing to regain this feeling of being special that she's recently lost, but this quest holds no weight due to the fact she's the star of the film and we more or less can guess this aspiration is going to be fulfilled even when the odds are stacked against her. All of this is to say that Red Sparrow may as well be known as the movie where J-Law learns to expertly cover up domestic abuse with top-of-the-line make-up rather than the one where she kicks ass and takes names because, as was noted earlier, there is very little that occurs here that lives up to the style and scope on which it is operating. Likely the biggest mark against Red Sparrow though, is the fact this opinion is coming from someone who generally basks in the dark and gritty tone of movies that like to take themselves seriously. Red Sparrow takes itself seriously, no doubt, and it has spurts of tension that compel as well as several locations and shot compositions that are downright breathtaking, but in the end the final product tries so hard to twist social expectations that it ends up feeling like cheap shock rather than frightening truth. Full review here. C

The 15:17 to Paris is not a good movie and likely never should have been a movie in the first place. Prior to Gone Girl coming out in 2014 there was an interview with director David Fincher where he stated in regards to the adaptation process that, "The book is many things. You have to choose which aspect you want to make a movie from." This is likely what writer Dorothy Blyskal should have done were she to stand the chance of making a compelling picture out of the lives of the three young men that saved a passenger train full of people from being killed by a terrorist in 2015. There is no disputing what these guys did was heroic and that, if their story was going to be turned into a feature film, that it deserved to be a compelling one, but The 15:17 to Paris is not that movie. No, The 15:17 to Paris isn't really much of a movie at all despite the fact it could be looked at as one of great risk and ambition. Directed by Clint Eastwood, Blyskal's script decides to tell the broad story of the friendship between our three protagonists whom Eastwood decided to cast with the real heroes themselves rather than having actors portray them. Unfortunately, Blyskal not choosing an aspect of these guy's lives to zero in on and make a movie out of essentially separates the picture into two distinct halves: one being the military recruitment ad the first half functions as while the second forty-five minutes may as well be a European travelogue with the event we're all in the theater to see being tacked on in the last twenty or so minutes. This final sequence is the only part of the film that holds any real tension, any real drama, or hint of any real style that resembles that of a film produced by a major studio and made by an Academy Award winning director and actor. Of course, just as The 15:17 to Paris probably never should have been a feature film it was never going to be a feature film in the traditional fashion, but more one that solidified Eastwood is now making statements with his efforts rather than simply pondering and contemplating with his art. For Eastwood, The 15:17 to Paris is the definition of heroism; no qualms, no frills, no debate about it. That's fine and I can appreciate the choice, but defining a certain quality doesn't automatically make that representation of the same quality. Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alek Skarlatos are heroes, no doubt, but their movie is (unfortunately) pretty terrible. F

Game Night has more pop culture references in it than a Shrek movie. That said, this is a really fun comedy that features a more than game cast and a goofy enough premise to work as both a mainstream comedy and a way for the cast to work in off-kilter jokes and references that give it this consistently edgy feel. In only their second feature, directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein deserve a shout-out as well for not only constructing a tight, genuinely funny comedy, but for also going more ambitious with the look of their film as cinematographer Barry Peterson (22 Jump Street, Central Intelligence) lends Game Night something akin to a David Fincher film in terms of style making it feel as if the potentially darker aspects of the story are that much more possible. B-

I watched Wonderstruck back in early December, but never made it around to writing a full review both given my viewing of the film was broken-up into two separate occasions and, though I liked the movie, I didn't feel I had much to say about it. That I merely only "liked" the movie was slightly disappointing though, given this was the latest from director Todd Haynes (Carol, I'm Not There) and based on a book by Brian Selznick who also wrote The Invention of Hugo Cabret, but this time had adapted his own work for the screen. The story follows tells the tale of two children separated by fifty years. In 1927, Rose (A Quiet Place's Millicent Simmonds) searches for the actress who's life she chronicles in her scrapbook whereas in 1977, Ben (Pete's Dragon Oakes Fegley) runs away from home to find his father. The movies supporting cast also features the likes of Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, and Tom Noonan so there are plenty of  top-notch credentials lending this thing some weight, but while the movie kind of nails the final act-much of what leads up to it doesn't resonate enough to make those final moments as powerful as they should be. C

This year's Academy award winner for Best Foreign Language Film and the first Chilean movie to accrue that honor, A Fantastic Woman, follows Marina, a transgender woman who works as a waitress and moonlights as a nightclub singer, who becomes engulfed by the death of her older boyfriend. Though I didn't make it around to many of the foreign film Oscar contenders this year nothing but praise has been heaped upon director Sebasti├ín Lelio's film and I look forward to catching up with it now that it's available on home video and to stream. 

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