New on DVD/Blu-Ray

Week of September 7-13, 2014

starhalfnbsp; Brick Mansions

Action, 2014
Available: Widescreen DVD, Blu-Ray, Streaming (Purchase)
Run Time: 1:30       MPAA Rating: : "PG-13"
A D-grade action flick with nothing to recommend it beyond a cacophony of mind-numbingly generic action sequences, Brick Mansions can be marketed as the "final completed film" made by the late Paul Walker. But if the filmmakers had really wanted to honor Walker's memory, a better move might have been to bury Brick Mansions with him rather than letting this misfire see the light of day.

starstarstarnbsp; Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Action/Adventure, 2014
Available: Widescreen DVD, Blu-Ray, Streaming (Purchase)
Run Time: 2:17       MPAA Rating: : "PG-13"
Captain America: The Winter Soldier represents the first film from Marvel Studios since The Avengers to capture the true superhero spirit: plenty of derring-do, action, adventure, and an ending that doesn't fall apart. A sequel to 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger, this film is unlikely to convert a non-Captain America lover into a fanatic but it's assembled with sufficient skill that those who enjoy this sort of motion picture will have a good time

starstarstarnbsp; Palo Alto

Drama, 2013
Available: Widescreen DVD,Streaming (Rent/Purchase)
Run Time: 1:37       MPAA Rating: : "R"
With a loose, at times almost dreamlike style, first-time director Gia Coppola utilizes a stream-of-consciousness approach to weaving her narrative. Palo Alto is light on plot and heavy on character. It's very much a slice-of-life story that does a good job italicizing how little moments in the big scheme of things can seem like monumental disasters while one is in high school.

Week of August 31-September 6, 2014

starstarstarnbsp; Draft Day

Drama, 2014
Available: Widescreen DVD, Blu-Ray, Streaming (Rent/Purchase)
Run Time: 1:47       MPAA Rating: : "PG-13"
Draft Day is a sports movie that's almost entirely about the business of sports as opposed to what transpires on the field. This isn't the first film to make that claim but it is arguably the most focused. Nevertheless, it's hard to imagine anyone who isn't a football geek caring much about Draft Day even though, when one looks deeply enough, this is as much about the personalities of the characters as it is about the trades they're involved in.

starstarstarstarnbsp; Universal Classic Monsters

Horror, Various
Available: DVD
Run Time: 48:00       MPAA Rating: : n/a
I don't have a review of the collection, but this is too good a buy to pass up. 30 of Universal's Monster Movie Classics featuring Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, and others, this spans the "Golden Age" of b&w Monster Movies from 1931 until 1956. It's an absolute must-have for those who grew up on these sometimes-great, sometimes not-so-great early horror films.

Week of August 24-30, 2014

starhalfnbsp; Blended

Romance/Comedy, 2014
Available: Widescreen DVD, Blu-Ray, Streaming (Rent/Purchase)
Run Time: 1:57       MPAA Rating: : "PG-13"
It's tough to say whether the lackluster Blended is the result of a bad script of whether star Adam Sandler and director Frank Coraci did unfortunate things to something better written. In the end, it doesn't matter - despite the change in tone and genre, Blended still falls into the "forgettable to unwatchable" category.

Recently Released

starstarhalfnbsp; 300: Rise of an Empire

Action/Adventure, 2014
Available: Widescreen DVD, Blu-Ray, Streaming (Rent/Purchase)
Run Time: 1:42       MPAA Rating: : "R"
300: Rise of an Empire is one of those unnecessary sequels that exists primarily because the previous installment made a lot of money. The lack of a creative driver behind the film leads to a level of fundamental dissatisfaction. The movie delivers all the necessary elements but their impact is dull. The virulent mix of adrenaline and testosterone that fueled 2006ís 300 is diluted in this follow-up installment.

starstarnbsp; Amazing Spider-Man 2, The

Action/Adventure, 2014
Available: Widescreen DVD, Blu-Ray, Streaming (Rent/Purchase)
Run Time: 2:22       MPAA Rating: : "PG-13"
The fifth Spider-Man feature, which is the sequel to the unnecessary reboot, is all over the place, an undercooked cinematic casserole that blends some genuinely touching moments and well-presented action sequences with bad melodrama, overlong exposition, and overexposed CGI. There are too many negatives to keep the experience from being the kind of giddy adrenaline rush one hopes for with a Big Summer Flick.

starstarstarnbsp; Divergent

Science Fiction/Adventure, 2014
Available: Widescreen DVD, Blu-Ray, Streaming (Rent/Purchase)
Run Time: 2:20       MPAA Rating: : "PG-13"
The latest in a growing stream of high-profile YA (Young Adult) sci-fi series to make it to the big screen, Divergent is poised to take its place as an "event" movie for the newest powerhouse demographic: girls and young women between the ages of 12 and 25. Although not as well-focused as The Hunger Games, Divergent employs many of the same elements: a futuristic post-war setting, a strong heroine, a romance, and a struggle against the oppression inherent in the status quo.

starstarhalfnbsp; Fading Gigolo

Comedy/Romance, 2013
Available: Widescreen DVD, Blu-Ray, Streaming (Rent/Purchase)
Run Time: 1:30       MPAA Rating: : "R"
Fading Gigolo is a slight movie but enjoyable nevertheless even if its brevity hints at something that, given more time to breathe, could have been a richer, more rewarding experience.

starstarstarnbsp; Grand Budapest Hotel, The

Comedy/Adventure, 2014
Available: Widescreen DVD, Blu-Ray, Streaming (Rent/Purchase)
Run Time: 1:39       MPAA Rating: : "R"
The Grand Budapest Hotel is instantly recognizable as the output of director Wes Anderson - it possesses all the qualities that make him beloved by his admirers and disliked by those who find his films pretentious and inaccessible. Compared to his earlier work, this is a middle-of-the-road effort. It offers an engaging 90+ minutes of unconventional, comedy-tinged adventure that references numerous classic movies while developing a style and narrative approach all its own.

starstarstarhalfnbsp; Lego Movie, The

Animated, 2014
Available: Widescreen DVD, Blu-Ray, Streaming (Rent/Purchase)
Run Time: 1:32       MPAA Rating: : "PG"
The Lego Movie is a solid cinematic translation of the toys from which it gains its name. Although initially designed for children, Legos have morphed into a means by which people of all ages can express their creativity. This is acknowledged explicitly and implicitly and the experience of watching the movie will offer a satisfying 90 minutes regardless of the age of the viewer - right down to the hilarious final line.

starstarstarnbsp; Muppets Most Wanted

Comedy/Adventure, 2014
Available: Widescreen DVD, Blu-Ray, Streaming (Rent/Purchase)
Run Time: 1:45       MPAA Rating: : "PG"
Muppets Most Wanted is a generic effort but when it comes to family entertaintment but there's nothing in this movie that will hurt The Muppets brand. We're here to spend a couple of hours with old friends doing new versions of the things we love best about them. We're here to laugh at the corny jokes and roll our eyeballs at the overproduced musical numbers. Muppets Most Wanted delivers these core elements and gives us reasons to leave the theater smiling.

starstarhalfnbsp; Noah

Drama/Adventure, 2014
Available: Widescreen DVD, Blu-Ray, Streaming (Rent/Purchase)
Run Time: 2:18       MPAA Rating: : "PG-13"
Although director Darren Aronofsky's take on the character of Noah is fascinating - he becomes a rigidly self-righteous man wracked with survivor's guilt - the movie as a whole is a mixed bag. It's overlong and a times sluggish. The fights and battles, designed to give an epic fantasy feel to the movie, are grave miscalculations. And the overabundance of CGI often makes Noah look like a video game.

starhalfnbsp; Other Woman, The

Comedy, 2014
Available: Widescreen DVD, Blu-Ray, Streaming (Rent/Purchase)
Run Time: 1:49       MPAA Rating: : "PG-13"
A movie that relies on audience obtuseness and believes infantile humor is the best kind, The Other Woman ignores dozens of potentially edgy possibilities to tell the most banal story imaginable - and to do it badly. Hollywood has recently discovered that there's a market for the Sex and the City demographic. Foisting movies like this upon them is a good way to dry it up.

starstarstarhalfnbsp; Raid 2, The

Action/Thriller, 2014
Available: Widescreen DVD, Blu-Ray, Streaming (Rent/Purchase)
Run Time: 2:30       MPAA Rating: : "R"
For those with strong constitutions, The Raid 2 offers one of the most intense motion picture experiences available; it may also be the most violent movie ever to be released into theaters. The Raid 2 is not for those who quail at images of blood and viscera or who shy away from the sight of two seemingly indestructible men pummeling, cutting, and pounding on each other for lengthy periods. This is an action junkie's fix and it literally pulls no punches.

starstarstarnbsp; Under the Skin

Science Fiction/Horror, 2013
Available: Widescreen DVD, Blu-Ray, Streaming (Rent/Purchase)
Run Time: 1:47       MPAA Rating: : "R"
This film, a cryptic adaptation of Michel Faber's novel, is all about mood and setting. It's as existential as a sci-fi/horror film can possibly be. It requires that the viewer slip into a meditative mood and remain there for more than 90 minutes. It's slow moving and contemplative. Those who fall under Glazer's spell will applaud Under the Skin as visionary. Those who don't will find it dull, opaque, and largely a waste of time.

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