On DVD & Blu-Ray: April 2, 2019

Bumblebee is produced by Steven Spielberg, but it doesn't feel like a 2018 Steven Spielberg-produced movie, it feels like a 1987 Steven Spielberg-produced movie. That is to say this Travis Knight picture is undoubtedly influenced by the young ensemble adventures of Spielberg's early days and is nothing short of a welcome change of pace for a franchise that, let's be honest, had long since passed its breaking point and was desperate for some change in direction (take note, Wizarding World!). Knight, the son of Phil Knight AKA the co-founder and current Chairman of Nike, Inc., who is himself now the current president and CEO of Laika Animation-a studio he helped re-organize and re-brand over a decade ago-had only directed a single feature (2016's Kubo and the Two Strings) prior to taking on the task of re-energizing a major franchise, but damn it if the guy doesn't have a grasp on exactly what this franchise needed: simplicity. The key is simplicity in everything and Knight as well as sole (emphasis on sole) screenwriter Christina Hodson (Unforgettable) understand that from the perspective of the story all the way down to character design; things are streamlined in order to simultaneously wipe the slate clean and inject some much needed adrenaline into the concept of robots in disguise. Gone are the convoluted plots and multiple McGuffin’s of Michael Bay's films and stripped are the overly detailed and multi-colored Transformer designs as Knight and co. make everything better by making it easier. In doing so, Bumblebee quickly establishes itself not only as a thrilling, adventure origin story of sorts, but as one of the more heartwarming films of the season as well (I know, I'm as surprised as you are). A true coming-of-age story for both the title character and Hailee Steinfeld's Charlie that features a few massive action set pieces rather than the other way around, Bumblebee is somehow able to retain the tone of a Saturday morning cartoon while rising above being little more than a campy homage to those Spielberg-involved films of yesteryear a la The Goonies or E.T. In fact, Bumblebee is more an unabashed update of The Iron Giant that changes the setting from space race era America to the radically free MTV-inspired era of the eighties. With its feet firmly planted in a universe where the kids are always smarter than the adults, where the aliens are as fearful of us as we are of them, and where every scenario we're presented with is one any group of young children could play out in their backyards Bumblebee resuscitates a series that had long been surviving on life support. Full review here. C+

Doing what is right is boring. Following the rules is boring. Doing what is wrong is entertaining. Bending and breaking the rules is amusing. Movies should not be made about politicians, but given most politicians don't do the right thing rather often and tend to break and bend the rules to fit their own needs and agenda as frequently as they need to it is no surprise there are plenty of television shows and movies based around and on political figures. There is a brief scene in Adam McKay's latest film, Vice, based around the life of Vice President Dick Cheney where he is teaching one of his daughter's how to fish and she asks if the trick of baiting the fish with a live worm is right or wrong-you know, morally. Cheney replies that, "It's not right or wrong, it's just fishing." His daughter admits to not wanting to hurt the worm, but her father summarizes his justification for the sport by stating, "You find out what they want and you use it to catch them. The family gets to eat." It is with this perspective that Cheney seemed to approach his political career as well-it also exemplifies how every single line and aspect of McKay's film is integral to the portrait the writer and filmmaker is painting. "It's not right or wrong, it's just what needs to be done." What McKay is really exploring through Vice though, is this idea of how does a man go on to become who he is? The film describes life as being a series of events that contain certain moments that are so delicate, that they are akin to a stack of teacups with a saucer in between each where-at any moment-one could fall in any direction and change the course of the future forever. Unfortunately, there's no way to know the future and which way things will fall, but while McKay is keen to note that Cheney more or less fell into the roles he would eventually allow to define the purpose of his life largely due to the involvement of his wife, what he seems particularly interested in dissecting is how Cheney came to view the job of serving the country and how he interpreted that responsibility as it becomes very clear that Cheney and his staff were experts at interpreting things strictly in the way they wanted and in what would benefit their cause best. What McKay is truly attempting to do is bring about a case concerning how Cheney had his hands in so many pies, either for reasons of his own agenda or for what he truly thought was best for the country (it's hard to tell from one issue to the next), and that the result of these meddling's effectively changed the course of history. McKay wants the viewer to not only read that tagline that could easily be misconstrued as a piece of hyperbole and understand it, but to grasp it and take to heart; to truly understand the ramifications of this single man's actions in determining the fate of millions upon millions of other people's lives. Full review here. B

The Mule is a movie that's easy to impose our own thoughts on in regards to its star; what amount of the themes present here resonated with Mr. Eastwood because he has ceased to stop working for the better part of six decades? It's a thought that feels unavoidable, but what is almost more striking about the film is the vulnerability Eastwood as Earl Stone-an elderly man who begins working as a drug mule for the cartel due to his clean driving record and unassuming demeanor-puts on display as he seems desperate to ensure you like the guy. Eastwood has never seemed like the type of guy to care what anyone thinks, but with Stone-there is a need for validation that makes sense given the arc of the character, but that kind of subtly crosses over into the star/director as well. To this point, Stone is a terrible person as far as being able to engage with the big picture and someone who almost always makes the wrong decision when it comes to a choice between who he loves and what he loves, but in his old age his family have come to expect nothing less and lend him little to no credit because of it.

A fascinating story that is executed cleanly, but with some real heart and humor, The Mule, is certainly some of the best work Eastwood has done both in front of and behind the camera in some time, but it his performance at the heart of this movie and the real-life implications that lend all the entertaining stuff going on that little something extra. In other words, a perfect movie for those who are looking for little more than a quality genre film with a strong story as well as for those who like a little more depth with their popcorn. B-

The Man who Killed Hitler and then The Bigfoot follows Calvin Barr (Sam Elliot) is an old, bitter recluse who was once a legendary assassin for the US government, and whose task to kill Hitler almost changed the course of WWII. Barr is asked to come back from retirement for one final top secret mission - to track down and eliminate a Bigfoot that became infected with a deadly disease that could spread to others if the creature remains on the loose in the forest for too long. During the mission, Barr's WWII past is shown through flashbacks.

IT's Sophia Lillis stars as the titular character in Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase as Nancy struggles with being a bit of an outsider trying to fit into her new surroundings. As per the formula, Nancy and her pals set out to solve a mystery, make new friends, and establish their place in the community.

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