There is a point in xXx: Return of Xander Cage where Vin Diesel starts wearing a giant fur coat, as if to suggest this 49-year old skater/adrenaline junkie/tattoo harvester/former spy was not cool enough for audiences already. The coat is not a huge part of the film (and thinking about it now, I’m curious if it is possible for it to even come back for a sequel), but it represents the utter ridiculousness that is this movie. With that in mind, this is also a film that embraces its ridiculousness. With all the action films that treat themselves so seriously or provide cool thrills at the expense of groups that continue to be vilified, here’s a cartoon-come-to-life that mixes bro moments with diverse fun.
The story behind McDonald’s is almost as fascinating as the world’s obsession with the McRib. The Founder is a straightforward attempt to tell that story (of the history, not the pork sandwich), with a focus on Ray Kroc, the man who turned McDonald’s into what it would come be today, for better or worse. Given what took place, the topic is ripe for a solid film, but despite a screenplay full of ideas and potential to morph into something cinematically great, the film feels undercut by fairly standard direction that takes less of a bite into the material than the customers do into their Big Macs.
This April, Criterion is serving up a special edition of Tampopo, Juzo Itami’s delirious, genre-bending “ramen western,” fresh from its theatrical run. The kitchen becomes a battleground in Woman of the Year, where Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy play journalist spouses with different ideas about what makes for a successful marriage. There’s also Francis Ford Coppola’s feverish “art film for teenagers,” Rumble Fish, whose stunning black-and-white cinematography weaves expressionistic shadows around an all-star cast, including Matt Dillon, Mickey Rourke, Diane Lane, and Dennis Hopper. Another unforgettable ensemble is the title act of Buena Vista Social Club, Wim Wenders’ exuberant portrait of the performers who made Cuban music an international sensation. And for an encore: Jacques Demy’s color-drenched musicals The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (a big inspiration for current awards favorite La La Land) and The Young Girls of Rochefort step into the spotlight, in new stand-alone editions.
Academy Award® nominee Michael Fassbender (Best Actor, Steve Jobs, 2015) and Golden Globe® nominee Brendan Gleeson (In Bruges) star in the riveting action-filled crime thriller Trespass Against Us on Blu-ray (plus Digital HD) and DVD March 7 from Lionsgate. Premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival, the movie examines the tension between family loyalty and personal salvation. Theatrically released by A24, the film features an original score by the Grammy® Award-winning Chemical Brothers. The Trespass Against Us Blu-ray has plenty look into. Continue on to learn more.
Filling in the slot for requisite January horror film, The Bye Bye Man seeks to push a new supernatural baddie on audiences and hope the thrills he brings are worthwhile. Married duo Stacy Title (director) and Jonathan Penner (writer) have put together a fast-paced thriller that brings together elements from many horror favorites, including Candyman, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween. Working with a decent budget (for horror standards), The Bye Bye Man does plenty to reward viewers on a sensory level, but it doesn’t do much with its concept to build any sort of clever mythology or engage beyond simple horror delights.
Remember that 80s cartoon Monster Trucks? It was about a strange creature from underground that inhabited a kid’s truck. The monster, the kid, his girlfriend and a scientist would go on to have adventures, while G-man came after them. If this isn’t ringing a bell, it’s because I made all of that up. Not made up is this film, a live-action cartoon made for a family audience. It’s not particularly deep and it’s quite rough around the edges, but it’s also a movie we really don’t see much of these days – a live-action, PG-rated, adventure film. That doesn’t make the film’s ridiculousness inconsequential, but I also can’t say there isn’t fun to be had in this wacky concept.
Another year, another exciting season of Homeland that came back in top form for another exciting season. This fifth season of the acclaimed Showtime series is here just in time for the premiere of season six and it would be a good time to catch up. Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin and Rupert Friend continue to star in the espionage drama series. For the fifth season, it is good to note how season four brought things back to a solid standard and this fifth season really sees the show delivering some of the best stuff since the earlier years, thanks to a change of setting and more. Now you can see for yourself, with this Blu-ray release. Continue on to see more of what’s in store for you, Carrie Mathison and the gang.
Academy Award nominee Casey Affleck delivers an unforgettable, Golden Globe-winning performance in the heartwarming, emotional, and powerful Manchester by the Sea, arriving on Digital HD February 7 and on Blu-ray Combo Pack (plus DVD and Digital HD), DVD and On Demand February 21 from Lionsgate. The award-winning 2016 Sundance Film Festival Official Entry follows Affleck’s character Lee, as he faces the ghosts of his past when he returns to his New England hometown to take care of his teenage nephew. Academy Award nominee Michelle Williams, Emmy Award winner Kyle Chandler (Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, “Friday Night Lights,” 2006), Gretchen Mol (3:10 to Yuma), and Lucas Hedges (Moonrise Kingdom) also star in the film, which was written and directed by Academy Award nominee Kenneth Lonergan. Continue on to learn more about this release.
The Birth of a Nation came and went last year. Following its breakout at the Sundance Film Festival, the proceeding months were not kind to writer/director/producer/star Nate Parker, based on a muddy history that was brought back into the news. Still, there is a righteous part of me that sees a film recounting a historical event and tying into relevant topics still affecting America today, as the nation continues to court more and more woke individuals. The other part concerns my role as one who critiques film and sees a lot of ambition being outdone, at times, by narrative and budgetary restraints, let alone other elements that are hard to look past. It is unfortunate that a film providing such a showcase for strong performances and evocative imagery was not more successful, but despite some issues, the film does plenty to unpack a lot of clear anger in how history and beyond has been a struggle for many. Now the films is on Blu-ray for those with curiosity to check out.
Jerry Maguire comes from a seemingly lost era. It’s a 140-minute, moderately budgeted romantic comedy-drama, featuring Tom Cruise, Rene Zellweger, Cuba Gooding, Jr. and others talking about life, love and other things. In addition to being an awards winner, it became one of the biggest hits of 1996. Cameron Crowe’s memorable and very quotable film has had a good shelf-life over the years and it now celebrates its 20th anniversary. To honor this, Sony has put out a new Blu-ray, featuring a brand new transfer, remastered in 4K, along with a new lossless soundtrack. There are also plenty of new bonus features, ensuring any fan that they should show stores the money in order for this Blu-ray to complete them.
Director Peter Berg knocked out two films in 2016, both based on true, tragic American events. It could have been tricky to do, but he seems to be more in his element than ever and that brings us to his take on a disaster film. As you may remember, given all the media coverage, Deepwater Horizon recounts the events that led up to the explosion and subsequent fire on an offshore drilling unit, resulting in the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history. Rather than heavily dwelling on the aftermath and politics involved though, this is a film about the workers involved and what they went through on the night of April 20, 2010. The result is a well-acted thriller that makes the most out of having a matter-of-fact handling on disaster movie tropes. Now the film has arrived on a packed Blu-ray.
Given the research and only having so much to work with, this is always a tough list to put together. I see over a hundred movies a year theatrically and a lot of those films are ones I’ve been anticipating to some degree, while many others are smaller films that randomly arrive on the calendar months after the start of the year. There are many films in production and being completed in time for Cannes and other film festivals to keep in account, but I’ve provided a month by month look at what I’m looking forward to seeing (links for trailers where available). I am also curious to hear what others have to say as well, so feel free to add thoughts in the comments.
Deepwater Horizon hits Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD on January 10, but I have a bonus post to throw your way, before digging into a full review of the Blu-ray. The Peter Berg-directed film, featuring Mark Walhberg and Kurt Russell, tells the story of the men involved in the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig disaster that occurred in April, 2010. The film was a thrilling watch and to allow viewers a closer and unique look at how this film came to be, Lionsgate has partnered with SubVRsive to provide a 360° virtual reality commentary with Berg and editor Colby Parker Jr. I was able to try this experience, so continue on to find out more about how this whole thing works and what to expect.
Here’s something that I didn’t see coming. The first live feature film will be streamed to cinemas all over this month and it stars Woody Harrelson. Based on a script he wrote that detailed one of his own experiences, Lost In London finds Harrelson playing himself in a story that involves his struggle to get back to his family, while in London. That is certainly random, but a unique idea, which I will be able to experience on January 19th. Everyone else can to, as this film is being presented by Fathom Events and tickets are on sale now. Continue on to learn more details surrounding the nature of this film, where you can see it and more.
There’s nothing like having friends who know you appreciate a good zombie film. Train to Busan is a film I had only heard about thanks to Why So Blu’s Jason Coleman, but he insisted I would enjoy it. As a fan of the George A. Romero classics, as well as some of the more recent entries in the genre ([REC], 28 Weeks Later), this film was said to be offering a unique experience in the world of the undead. This proved to be true, as the film pits zombie hordes against passengers on a bullet train, leading to an intense battle of survival. With some really creative moments and a good amount of drama, Train to Busan basically had everything to make for a fun zombie flick. Now it’s time to dig into the Blu-ray release.
Because writer/director/producer Ryan Murphy was not busy enough with American Horror Story and American Crime Story, he also decided to follow up Fox’s Glee with another over-the-top series that takes on the horror genre to a lighter degree with Scream Queens. Packed with both veteran and younger stars, the concept is fun enough, with this series challenging MTV’s Scream to be the best horror/dark comedy about teens on television. However, does Scream Queens deliver the goods or miss the mark when it comes to being a proper horror send-up? The first season is now available on DVD, so anyone can catch up.
The end of 2016 means an end to another year of great cinema. I had a tough time putting together this final list of films, as there was a strong selection to go through. Having watched over 175 films theatrically this year, it was fun to narrow things down to a final list of ten films. This is especially the case, given how hard I worked to keep in mind my personal thoughts on all aspects of each of these films and how they resonated with me in the time since seeing them. So here we go with my picks for the Top Ten films of 2016 and the ranked runner-ups. (As per usual, I placed lots of Easter Eggs hidden in all of the pictures).
American Honey competed for the Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and one can see why. The film portrays a teenage girl on an American odyssey composed of filmmaking that utilizes the cinéma vérité style to capture all of the actions that take place for her and those she encounters. The film is rather long, but speaks to a number of different ideas that many can apply their own context too. With a good amount of praise and lots of end of the year awards consideration, American Honey is the kind of film many cinephiles certainly want to try and catch up with. Now the film is available on Blu-ray for all to explore for themselves.