On DVD & Blu-Ray: April 30, 2019

Drug cartels and beauty pageants aren't exactly two things one might naturally pair together and certainly aren't two things one might believe to have similar skillsets, but in these opposing actions we find some crossover and it is in this intersection of the two as presented in 2019's Miss Bala that we find the most interesting theme director Catherine Hardwicke's (Thirteen, Twilight) film has to offer: appearance, pretense, facade. Both worlds in which these two seemingly distant activities take place present this outward appearance where it is key to maintain the less than pleasant reality behind the scenes. While no expert in either drug and weapons trafficking or in beauty pageants, it would seem that within a drug cartel what the money can buy you is obviously flaunted in the forefront while the dirty work is kept behind closed doors while with beauty pageants what is presented is the whole point and the whole point is to be pretty and appealing, but what no one sees is the hard work and dedication it takes to present such a veneer. What is interesting about this though, is that in keeping up such appearances the individual must learn to exude a certain level of confidence, to truly build this exterior based on their look and the way they carry themselves that might be completely misleading or the exact opposite of what they might be feeling inside. Of course, this could be true of any number of things and in any number of professions, but it is these parallels that the film examines and ultimately utilizes to its substantial advantage that give Miss Bala just the slightest amount of weight whereas otherwise this English-language re-make simply settles into a pattern of being a mostly interesting action noir of sorts if not ever being as fun as it feels it should be given the baked-in premise of this average, every-day protagonist discovering her own sense of worth and inner-strength that allows her to be able to combat this situation she's fallen into completely by accident. Gina Rodriguez (TV's Jane the Virgin) is more than formidable given what the role calls for and she graphs her character's arc in believable fashion, but it is the otherwise routine direction and lack of intuition into tone on the part of Hardwicke that levels the themes and character work clearly at play here. Full review here. C-

That was a long way to go to get what we got.

It’s difficult to even comprehend what might have motivated writer/director Steven Knight (Locke) to pen this screenplay much less a studio to pick it up and hand over money to make it, but here we are. If there was any doubt the McConaissance wasn’t dead Serenity closes any window of doubt as this isn’t just bad, but gloriously bad. D

Writer/director S. Craig Zahler (Bone Tomahawk) follows-up Brawl in Cell Block 99 with another Vince Vaughn crime thriller, Dragged Across Concrete, that centers around two policemen, one an old-timer (Mel Gibson) and the other his volatile younger partner (Vaughn). The two find themselves suspended when a video of their strong-arm tactics become the media's cause du jour. Low on cash and with no other options, the two embittered soldiers descend into the criminal underworld to gain their just due, but instead find far more than they wanted awaiting them in the shadows.

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