New on DVD/Blu-Ray


Week of October 13-19, 2014

starstarstarhalfnbsp; X-Men: Days of Future Past

Science Fiction/Action, 2014
Available: Widescreen DVD, Blu-Ray, Streaming (Purchase)
Run Time: 2:11       MPAA Rating: : "PG-13"
Not since The Dark Knight Rises has a movie featuring familiar heroic figures taken such a grim and unconventional path. To reboot the X-Men franchise, director Bryan Singer, who first gave these characters screen life fourteen years ago, has crafted a continuity-lover's nightmare. This is the most unique and audacious genre entry in a couple of years and, on those terms alone, it deserves to be seen.


Week of September October 6-12, 2014

starstarstarnbsp; Live, Die, Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow

Science Fiction/Action, 2014
Available: Widescreen DVD, Blu-Ray, Streaming (Purchase, Rental)
Run Time: 1:53       MPAA Rating: : "PG-13"
An Earth-versus-aliens tale set in the near future, Edge of Tomorrow (renamed Live, Die, Repeat for the video release) offers a time travel twist to its proceedings. Unlike many movies that toy with journeys through the fourth dimension, this one doesn't dwell on paradoxes. Edge of Tomorrow is clever enough that the viewer doesn't have to feel embarrassed sitting in the audience but not so clever that there's no fun to be had.


starstarnbsp; Million Ways to Die in the West, A

Comedy, 2014
Available: Widescreen DVD, Blu-Ray, Streaming (Purchase, Rental)
Run Time: 1:52       MPAA Rating: : "R"/NR
It would be inaccurate to claim that A Million Ways to Die in the West is devoid of humor. It isn't. However, Seth MacFarlane's hit-and-miss spoof of Westerns has far more "misses" than "hits" and the actor-director-writer doesn't seem to realize that less is sometimes more when it comes to comedy. Too many of MacFarlane's jokes, which are initially funny, lose their luster because they go on too long or because the movie plumbs the same well too often.


Week of September 28-October 5, 2014

starstarhalfnbsp; Are You Here

Drama, 2013
Available: Widescreen DVD, Blu-Ray, Streaming (Purchase, Rental)
Run Time: 1:52       MPAA Rating: : "R"
It's easy to become frustrated with Are You Here because it affords tantalizing glimpses into a world where it would be enjoyable to spend a relaxed vacation but, because movies like this are constrained to run less than two hours, we're provided with too little to be satisfying. It's a tease: worthwhile in some ways but ultimately too diluted to offer a fulfilling movie-going experience.


starnbsp; Transformers: Age of Extinction

Science Fiction/Action, 2014
Available: Widescreen DVD, Blu-Ray, Streaming (Purchase)
Run Time: 2:45       MPAA Rating: : "PG-13"
This is as excruciating a movie as is likely to be experienced by anyone, anywhere. It isn't merely that the story is insulting, the characters are bland, the action is dull, and the CGI is everywhere - it's that all this goes on for nearly three hours. That's three hours of your life you'll never get back.


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.


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.


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; 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.


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.


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; Fault in Our Stars, The

Drama/Romance, 2014
Available: Widescreen DVD, Blu-Ray, Streaming (Purchase)
Run Time: 2:05       MPAA Rating: : "PG-13"
Calling The Fault in Our Stars a "teenage cancer romance" might be understating the film's laudable qualities but it's also a reasonably accurate three-word summary of the plot. Adapted from John Green's best-selling YA novel of the same name, The Fault in Our Stars merits notice not because of its formulaic storyline but because of the heartfelt manner in which it is presented.


starstarstarnbsp; Godzilla

Adventure, 2014
Available: Widescreen DVD, Blu-Ray, Streaming (Purchase)
Run Time: 2:03       MPAA Rating: : "PG-13"
Although the 2014 edition of Godzilla isn't the be-all and end-all of monster movies, it's a respectable big-budget effort. Most importantly for legions of fans across the globe, it's a Godzilla movie, honoring not only the look and feel of the Big Green Lizard's most famous outings but paying homage to his entire history. To the extent that summer movies are all about mayhem and destruction, Godzilla delivers everything expected of it, and perhaps a little more.


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.


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.


starstarstarnbsp; Neighbors

Comedy, 2014
Available: Widescreen DVD, Blu-Ray, Streaming (Purchase)
Run Time: 1:36       MPAA Rating: : "R"
Neighbors contains many of the qualities that make raunchy comedies a popular commodity. However, while there's no denying the film's "mature" credentials, there's an element of honesty to the humor that is surprising and refreshing. There's no doubt the filmmakers want to make us laugh but, in doing so, they touch upon a theme many older viewers will find familiar: the rite of passage from a college party animal to the responsible role of a father or mother.


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.


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.


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; Signal, The

Science Fiction, 2014
Available: Widescreen DVD, Blu-Ray
Run Time: 1:35       MPAA Rating: : "PG-13"
The Signal ends up as a completely different movie than it is at the start. Director William Eubank relies on the intelligence and ingenuity of audience members to puzzle everything out and arrive at a solution. It's more heavy lifting than some will be willing to engage in but there's something welcome about a motion picture that doesn't hand out a dumbed-down resolution in a neatly wrapped package.


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.


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.


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