On DVD & Blu-Ray: August 6, 2019

It's still difficult for me to wrap my brain around the fact that despite countless video games and other IP adaptations over the years that Pokémon has somehow eluded becoming a big screen, live-action event film until this weekend. I can remember Christmas of '99 and getting a Game Boy Color that had to be shared between myself and my siblings with each of us wanting to play our respective Pokémon games at the same time whether that was the red version I received or the blue version my brother did. This was my first real encounter with the world of Pokémon after which I enjoyed collecting the cards more so than I did necessarily playing the actual game. And then there was of course the animated series which led to a couple of animated feature-length films and some Nintendo 64 games (Pokémon Stadium was legit!), but in retrospect it all felt more like a fad that came and went rather quickly in the scheme of things. After the Pokémon roster started expanding past that original one hundred and fifty characters and through to a few years back when the brand re-claimed its dominance over the market with Pokémon GO-the interactive mobile game that had you feeling like you were actually catching Pokémon in the wild-I'd been more or less out of the loop. Moreover, despite how far-reaching Pokémon continued to be, I simply couldn't muster any interest in the multi-format craze; the individual facets of it seeming as widespread as the next and each with as dedicated a fan base as the next. What was I missing? With this in mind, one can imagine my initial response to the news Warner Bros. was hiring Ryan Reynolds to voice Pikachu in a live-action adaptation of one of the newer video games that dealt with this fan-favorite Poké-creature becoming a detective. In short, it sounded like a really dumb idea that could in no way translate to the big screen in any type of credible manner that might pull in an audience beyond the already initiated and the Deadpool 3 screenwriters. Rather, it felt as if it would probably end up going the route of those Alvin and the Chipmunk or Smurf movies where no one actually cared about them and the only people who saw them were children whose parents needed eighty-eight minutes of repose over the weekend. This was, of course, until the first trailer arrived lending the feature the favor of clearly being a more creative endeavor than those aforementioned cash before quality adaptations. This is to say there was evidence of a certain level of care given in the creation of Pokémon Detective Pikachu as the trailer and subsequent execution of the film illustrates both a style and ambition in developing this world that means to both fulfill the fan base as well as weave this strange attraction from the uninitiated by being just weird enough to be engaging; by being unabashedly unusual, but undeniably interesting. Full review here. Video review here. B-

A horror film based on Mexican folklore about a "weeping woman" who drowned her own children in a river and is then doomed to an eternity of seeking out the children of others is, well...a pretty great set-up in story and tone as well as hinting at the natural aesthetic a movie should take. So, how hasn't this been converted into a product for profit already? Unfortunately for Hispanic culture, director Michael Chaves-in his feature directorial debut-seems to have been told to approach this from a very specific standpoint by a studio invested in a very specific vision of a cinematic universe rather than from a financier who might have allowed the filmmaker to integrate the natural inclinations the folklore would lend to a visual representation. That said, and this is somewhat ironic, The Curse of La Llorona's biggest strength is in fact its visual prowess as the narrative resorts largely to jump scares and extended sequences of as much rather than nurturing an actual story or developing actual characters. Though I haven't seen any of the shorts Chaves has directed, La Llorona feels very much in line with the visual stylings of James Wan, the originator and cultivator of this series of horror films from the same universe. In approaching such promising material from this mindset, the result is almost inevitably middle-of-the-road as it hits all of the required beats without ever making the audience dance (or squirm) to its rhythm. Furthermore, while Chaves and his team go to great lengths to nail down an atmosphere and period-specific details (like The Conjuring films, this also takes place in the 70's) much of it is in service of few to no genuine scares. There is even a general lack of creepiness as all that occurs and all that is being threatened to happen to these characters we mostly care about only because they are either children or widowed women are more broad examples of horror movie tropes than they are specific consequences of having encountered as unique a figure as the "weeping woman". Video review here. C-

In a film that will be too quickly dismissed by everyone save for the demographic it was actually made for (and is too often taken for granted by studio execs), POMS is actually a rather astute and more often than not, genuinely funny studio comedy that doesn't take real-world implications for granted in order to simplify characterizations or character dynamics. Sure, it has that sitcom-like visual style that generally strays toward an aesthetic more Williams Sonoma than grim reality, but writer/director Zara Hayes (along with co-writer Shane Atkinson) uses the surface-level tropes associated with the geriatric comedy genre to make points without really making them. Namely, that of how shifting societal expectations and norms have dictated many a woman's lives to little more than forgotten dreams and lost aspirations. POMS is a testimony about making up for lost time, making up for a missed life, and a bunch of women who are tired of being relegated to only grabbing their husband's balls and finally deciding to grab their life by those anything-is-attainable testicles. All of this is of course coupled with the fact this cast is having a blast. B-

I've purchased a digital copy of this Joanna Hogg film and am actually in the midst of watching this film that follows a young film student in the early '80s who becomes romantically involved with a complicated and untrustworthy man. Tilda Swinton is featured here, but her daughter, Honor Swinton Byrne, is the star of The Souvenir and as they are already in production on a "Part II' to the film I'm very intrigued as to how the rest of this movie will go and how it will finish up. More thoughts soon...

Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins star in Tolkien, a film that chronicles the formative years of the orphaned author J.R.R. Tolkien as he finds friendship, love and artistic inspiration among a group of fellow outcasts at school.

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