On DVD & Blu-Ray: March 26, 2019

Look, I get it, Aquaman was never going to be an easy movie to make-especially given the weight of the pressure on the film to make or break Warner Bros.' DC Extended Universe. The losses certainly outweigh the wins at this point, but there was a hope that after the triumph of Wonder Woman and the hurried process of simply getting through Justice League (a movie already in production when Batman v Superman received its backlash and essentially completed when WW turned things around) that James Wan's Aquaman might be able to finally allow this rival to the Marvel Studios cinematic universe to settle on and find its own distinct tone. Aquaman somewhat accomplishes this as the movie certainly settles on its own tone-one that is arguably appropriate for a movie about a man who can talk to fish-but Aquaman also never seems to find its rhythm. Wan, a master of suspense and horror, translated his skills into the bigger, action-oriented realm fairly well with Furious 7, but while Aquaman features some of the best choreographed and executed fight sequences of the year everything around them feels like an exercise in trying to figure out how best to configure an underwater world that the movie still hasn't figured out by the time it reaches its final, climactic battle. So listen, I understand there is only so much one can do with an Aquaman movie, I really do, but while the ambition is there and the movie offers some genuine fun in fits and starts the product as a whole never gels in the fashion that it feels like a complete, satisfactory work. Wan's Aquaman, as penned by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall, feels like if the Power Rangers series had decided to grow up with the generation Mighty Morphin premiered with, but never developed mentally past that of an eight-year-old's mindset. Meaning, the only thing growing with the audience was the budget while still retaining the mentality and most importantly, the sense of humor, of that core demographic of fourth and fifth graders. Aquaman is a Saturday morning live-action cartoon on steroids likely meaning a certain, large demographic of the audience will absolutely love and revel in what Wan has put together and to be frank, upon further re-watches, I can see how it might become more endearing, but upon first impression Aquaman leaves much to be desired in terms of substance despite indulging its audience in eye candy and overwhelming them with silliness. Full review here. C

Though not familiar with writer James Baldwin's work in October of 2016 I found myself suddenly taken with the work of a young director who'd only just directed his second feature after a near eight year break in between his first and second films that I'm sure was anything but a break. Barry Jenkins' Moonlight, the eventual Best Picture winner for 2017, was a film that kept knocking at my brain for days after seeing it. It only seems fitting then that Jenkins' follow-up to that much heralded work is a piece that not only requires patience and trust on its journey, but one that is simultaneously so simplistic yet contains mountains of emotions and social commentary aching to be unpacked; ideas, inclinations, and images that will continue to resonate in my mind for days upon days. If Beale Street Could Talk, adapted from Baldwin's 1974 novel of the same name, is a meditation session of a movie, but in this sense it is also wholly an experience as well. There is story if not sporadic plot points that guide the viewer through the series of themes Jenkins is keen on communicating, but these plot points seem more present for the benefit of the conditioned viewer than they are for the sake of the film saying what it wants to say. Jenkins doesn't necessarily need traditional structure to convey what he wants to convey as he proved in Moonlight with his triptych approach, but with Beale Street there are really only three whole scenes in the film while the rest of it is more montages or anecdotes that essentially swirl around these three major moments to create a deeper context for the more full, finite scenes that pinpoint the beginning, middle, and end of the film. It's an interesting way to approach story and it uniquely conveys the sense of feeling and emotion the film wants to relay better than it would were it trying to do the same thing through a more straightforward technique. Of course, with what is more of a loose, jazz-inspired structure the viewer is fed little bits of information at a time from different stages in these characters' lives, but it is through the power of how Jenkins and his editors, Joi McMillon and Nat Sanders, weave the layers of the story of Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James) together that not only do we become convinced of their love for one another, but we are convinced further by their friendship and, as a result, that they are meant to be; soulmates, if you will, separated through injustice, but never truly divided. A-

Yes, Melissa McCarthy is great in this, but the thing is-if you’ve actually watched all of her broadly comedic stuff-then you already knew she was going to be great in this. McCarthy’s always been keen on portraying her characters as largely flawed, but with somewhat extreme defense mechanisms and Lee Israel is no exception. McCarthy isn’t as comically broad with Israel’s defenses as per her typical roles, but it is the way she conveys the burden Israel feels in having to deal with other people and how she balances it with the confident arrogance Israel carries that McCarthy somehow makes the character endearing thus making Can You Ever Forgive Me? just as endearing. And while we all knew Richard E. Grant was good and as good as McCarthy is in this, it is he who steals the show. Jack. Hock. Is. Fantastic.

Also scratches the surface of some really interesting ideas about Israel’s most creative endeavor being that of writing through the guise of other people; through people who lived in a period of time when the written word was still respected. Israel was always a writer who wanted her work to be the star, who wanted to disappear behind her prose and thus what occurs ultimately only feels like an eventuality, but the film might have been more thematically substantial had it explored the connection between the themes and its subject a little more. B-

Jennifer Lopez stars as a big box store worker who reinvents her life and her life-story and shows Madison Avenue what street smarts can do. I didn't see Second Act in theaters, but this sounds right up my alley for a Friday night in on the couch with the wife.

Stan & Ollie stars Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly as Hollywood's greatest comedy double act, Laurel and Hardy. With their golden era long behind them, the pair embark on a variety hall tour of Britain and Ireland. Despite the pressures of a hectic schedule, and with the support of their wives Lucille (Shirley Henderson) and Ida (Nina Arianda)-a formidable double act in their own right-the pair's love of performing, as well as for each other, endures as they secure their place in the hearts of their adoring public.


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