On DVD & Blu-Ray: April 9, 2019


The majority of people who see more than ten movies a year will undoubtedly dismiss director Mimi Leder's Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic, On the Basis of Sex, as little more than your standard fare when it comes to said genre of film and while this criticism is more than fair given the expected beats Daniel Stiepleman's screenplay hits it is difficult to deny the content doesn't outweigh the delivery-or that it doesn't at least balance it.

Felicity Jones and Armie Hammer-along with a spectacular cast of supporting players including Stephen Root, Sam Waterston, Justin Theroux (who is particularly fantastic), Kathy Bates, Jack Reynor, Chris Mulkey, and Wendy Crewson-each know what kind of movie they're playing a part in and in turn play-up each of the respective aspects they contribute to the story effectively.

What might be the most fascinating part of the film though, and something I would be eager to discuss with your average movie-goer after they walk out of a screening, is if those who might not take a liking to the strides modern society is attempting to make in terms of equality-still both for women and African-Americans, but also for the LGBTQ and trans communities-to see if they ultimately come to blame Ginsburg for disrupting the status quo all those years ago or if the movie made them root for her as is its clear intent.

On the Basis of Sex smartly only takes on and exemplifies Ginsburg's legal prowess, eloquent writing abilities, and command of a courtroom within the context of the first big case of her career-the one that started it all; the one that would set her on the path she’s still walking. The first half hour or so would lead one to believe this might be a collection of "greatest hits," but once this crux of a case is introduced the film shifts to a more clinical approach. One of the more enlightening facets of this transition is that of Ginsburg's combative, but inspiring relationship with her daughter, Jane (Cailee Spaeny). Jane is, as movie clich├ęs go, wise beyond her years, but the dynamic between the two creates a more honest and layered approach than such a straightforward biopic might otherwise suggest. B-

If this were made in 2007, in between Talladega Nights and Step Brothers, that Hugh Laurie cameo would have either been Vince Vaughn or Ben Stiller and it would have been all the better for it. Still, even if Holmes & Watson were to come out some eleven years ago it wouldn’t have been directed by Adam McKay (the director of those aforementioned Ferrell and Reilly collaborations) and that is the chief issue with this rushed, lifeless, excursion into a premise that never takes off; a skit that should have been cut not because of a lack of time, but because the premise wasn’t near substantial enough to support the time it’s given.

As someone who turned 16 in 2003 and already adored Ferrell due to his SNL performances it was like seeing the rest of the world discover what I already knew that year when he delivered the one-two punch of Old School and Elf (I realize the former wasn’t immediately seen as a success, but it’s long since become a cult favorite). In the years that followed, Ferrell would go on to become a comedy titan thanks in large part to his collaborations with McKay-each of which are exceptional in their own right-but if Holmes & Watson signifies anything it is the end of an era; the final nail in the coffin that began being built a few years back with the likes of Get Hard and Daddy’s Home, and continued through to last year with The House and a Daddy’s Home sequel. In 2009, something like Land of the Lost was the exception, not the rule, but Ferrell has turned such expectations on their head and now we expect nothing less than cheap comedy from a guy who was once the king of being smart and cutting by being dumb and funny. Ferrell isn’t the only one who has fallen prey to this plague of unfunny-friends in his “Frat Pack” have also had an equally tough time adapting their comedy and careers to their age as Stiller made Zoolander 2, Vaughn and Owen Wilson re-teamed for The Internship, and who knows where Luke Wilson has been for the last decade, but Ferrell’s fall-for one reason or another-hurts a little more.

Holmes & Watson is not a good movie and considering how good we know Ferrell and John C. Reilly can be together Holmes & Watson is even more disappointing, but it’s not the out and out atrocity that’s causing hoardes of walk-outs either. It has less than a handful of inspired comedic moments in a script where the same joke is repeated scene after scene to the same degree of effectiveness: little to none. A musical number that should have gone bigger and a zinger of a cameo, both near the end of the film, are easily the best things writer/director Etan Cohen’s film has to offer. So, is Holmes & Watson a good movie? No. Was I ever bored to the point I didn’t continue to hold out hope things might get better? No, not until the end came and I realized hope for Ferrell might forever be lost. At least until he gets a little older and redeems himself critically with more serious-minded work only to then make a glorious return to comedy and is subsequently discovered by a new generation of fans where the likes of Holmes & Watson will have long been forgotten and is never brought up again. F

If this were 1997 Tom Hanks would have played Mark Hogancamp and I don't know that Welcome to Marwen would have been any better for it.

As someone who grew up hearing director Robert Zemeckis' work almost unanimously praised through the likes of the Back to the Future films and Forrest Gump as well as Cast Away being my first theatrical Zemeckis experience it seemed as if the man could do nothing wrong and was forever interesting due to his own interests in always trying to push the envelope in some way. The director continued to do this as I came of age and developed more of a taste for more varied types of cinema, but did so in the sense that it would become the era when Zemeckis became enamored with motion capture animation. Between The Polar Express, Beowulf, and A Christmas Carol (all of which I saw and each of which I don't largely remember) it seemed Zemeckis was pigeon-holing himself into a trend he'd never be able to give up and then, in 2012, the filmmaker seemed to re-calibrate his career with the Denzel Washington-starrer, Flight, that made many people sit up and take note of what Zemeckis was up to again. It was Zemeckis' next film though, The Walk, that would really set the stage for Marwen.

Like, The Walk, Welcome to Marwen is a feature adaptation of a story previously told in a documentary that didn't necessarily need a feature adaptation to improve upon the story, but that Zemeckis had clear ideas about how to interpret and convey in bigger and more interesting ways. Given the subject matter with The Walk it was the idea to shoot on large format cameras and in immersive 3D (IMAX VR has a virtual reality experience of this movie, where the guest actually tightropes across the twin towers) while with Marwen the hook is to not only take the audience through the trials and tribulations of Hogancamp's story, but to flesh out how he has coped with the tragedies of his life by bringing to life what can only be imagined as what Hogancamp himself is imagining; this done through animated sequences with Barbie and G.I. Joe figures that Hogancamp has utilized to build his own, alternate world and town that is set in Belgium in the middle of WWII. Long story short, Hogancamp was beaten within an inch of his life in 2000 and lost all previous memories as a result thus pushing him to a place where his fictional town he dubbed "Marwencol" became a place for him to escape to and an outlet for him to create from.

Fascinating, right? It's not difficult to see why a filmmaker like Zemeckis would have a unique take on the material and want to again tell Hogancamp's story, but Zemeckis and co-writer, Caroline Thompson (The Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands) boil this man's story down from what could have been a sweeping narrative about alter-egos and fulfilling ones fantasies through the image one has of themselves in their mind, about creating your own therapy through creating your own world, or about a man who-after losing his memory and being in a coma-had to learn everything over again-both physically and mentally-to a movie about a boy with some issues who meets the new girl across the street that is kind to him, but would never desire to actually be with his weird ass in real life. At least, that's how it all comes off in Zemeckis' film. There are inspired moments, no doubt, as there are hints of how Hogancamp's dolls and alternate reality begin to make their way into what is actually reality and how it becomes increasingly difficult for him to tell the difference, but these never amount to much if anything. The integration of the two worlds is fairly smooth and the intercutting of the storylines unfolding in the real world and in Marwen help to add some momentum to what is otherwise an unfocused mess of emotions, but this is largely a slog. The intrigue of the film should be in the trying to piece together what happened to Hogancamp (more the little details than the broad strokes), who each of the dolls represent in his actual life, and what those people signify in the grand scheme, but Zemeckis fails to ever capture any kind of cohesive tone as characters come in and out with no explanation and are then never seen again to the extent the film as a whole feels like a patchwork of a handful of different ideas rather than a film with a certain perspective on its subject. Zemeckis has a point of view when it comes to how he wanted to relay the story, but no such point of view when it actually comes to telling the story and that's a real issue.

To boot, considering we're watching Barbie and G.I. Joe figures flesh out this world this man is enjoying existing within more than he does the real world and the insane violence depicted as well as strange sexual tension that always lingers it's hard to separate the "interesting" from the "weird". Dammit if Steve Carell isn't endearing as always though; the only other man outside of Hanks that is able to pull off a line like, "reach for the sky" in serious fashion while looking like a plastic doll. D

In A Dog's Way Home a female dog travels four hundred miles in search of her owner throughout a Colorado wilderness.

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