Pages Navigation Menu

"No matter where you go, there you are."


US Blu-ray & DVD releases this week: Lion, The Bye Bye Man, Toni Erdmann, and more



Lion – Based on the true story of a child separated from his mother who then tries to find her as an adult, Lion is tough to boil down into a single-sentence synopsis as it’s so much more than that. A movie that could be maudlin or depressing is instead both gripping and heartfelt. At the heart of the film are some amazing performances by Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman, with a nice supporting turn from Rooney Mara. The film has a few minor pacing issues in the beginning, but it quickly becomes the kind of film that keeps you glued to the screen. The awards nominations this movie received were well-earned.

The Bye Bye Man – A smaller horror hit for Universal, The Bye Bye Man borrows a little from several different films’ playbooks, including most notably Candyman and even The Ring (to a lesser extent.) And while it made some money at the box office, the film ultimately suffers from being a little too “been there, done that,” and not doing so in a terribly original way. The characters are as cookie-cutter as they come, and the film just never feels all that interesting or scary, save for some hackneyed jump cuts here and there. You can safely skip this one.

Monster Trucks – Poor Monster Trucks. I can’t remember the last time a kids’ movie was THIS dead on arrival at the box office. And I’m not entirely sure why, either. I mean, is it art? No. But you take monster trucks (which a lot of kids love) and monsters (which a lot of kids love) and you mix them together, and you’d think at least a few kids would have dragged their parents out to see it. Well, at least there’s home video, where I can definitely see this movie gaining new life. Because honestly, it’s not bad at all. Yes, it’s silly and over-the-top, but it’s a kids’ movie for crying out loud. It’s got some fun action, some goofy characters, and, well, monsters in trucks. Come on!

Silicon Valley: The Complete Third Season – While Mike Judge has never quite been able to replicate the sheer cult/viral success of Office Space, his HBO comedy about life at an upstart in Silicon Valley at least comes close. It’s not the same as Office Space, but it is extremely enjoyable in a similar way. It’s basically about a bunch of computer nerds who create an algorithm that could change the world, and what they go through as they try to create a company to bring it to life. There are some issues with the show (I like TJ Miller usually, but I find his character here extremely grating), but the core characters and actors are fun to watch, and the show is smartly written. It also benefits from shorter eight-episode seasons. I can basically watch each season in one sitting, and now I’m ready to take a break and wait for Season Four.

Toni Erdmann – Another Oscar-nominated film, this one comes from the Best Foreign Film category. In it, an estranged father and his adult daughter – firmly entrenched in the corporate world – try to reconnect when the father enters the daughter’s life disguised as a life coach named Toni Erdmann. The film requires more than a little willing suspension of disbelief (although it should be noted that the daughter isn’t unaware of his true identity), but it’s not without its charms. While the actors are terrific and there are some really sweet and funny moments (it is a dramedy, not a pure comedy, after all), the film suffers a bit from a running time that comes in just 15 minutes shy of three hours. If the film was more streamlined, it would have been a slam dunk, but as it is it’s still worth a watch.

Tangled: Before Ever After – I seriously love the movie Tangled. It’s one of my favorites of the past decade, and it easily goes above and beyond almost any Pixar film for my money. So when I heard they were doing an animated series, I was pretty excited. When I heard that Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi were coming back to reprise their roles as Rapunzel and Flynn Rider, I was even more excited. While this is billed as a “movie” event, it’s more of a traditional TV pilot episode as it only runs 55 minutes. Still, it’s a heck of a lot of fun, and while the style of animation is different from the feature film, I love this world too much to care. Recommended for kids AND adults.

Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:

  • War on Everyone – “You have the right to remain violent.” As tag lines go, it’s pretty brilliant (and in this case, it’s also extremely accurate), setting the tone for this extremely violent black comedy about corrupt cops. The driving force here is the chemistry between Michael Pena (always welcome on screen) and Alexander Skarsgard who take this over-the-top film and anchor it in something resembling likability. I can’t say I out and out loved this film, but it has all the makings of a cult classic in the future.
  • Sword Master – Produced (but not directed) by wuxia film legend Tsui Hark, Sword Master is the next over-the-top Asian action epic. As with so many of these films, there’s a lot to love and a lot to not love. On the plus side, the action scenes are utterly breathtaking, even if there’s a bit too much CGI from time to time. The swordplay is terrific, and I do love me a great sword fight; trust me, there are plenty here. However, the drama that drives the narrative is pretty meh, and I couldn’t really get engaged in much of the film beyond the action. In other words, typical for the genre.
  • Veep: Season 5 – I don’t know why I like so many of HBO’s drama and genre shows and hate so many of their comedies (excepting the aforementioned Silicon Valley, of course), but boy is Veep: The Complete Fifth Season a perfect example of what I don’t like. I’m a pretty big Julia Louis-Dreyfus fan, and I generally find her both very funny and a great actress. Unfortunately, I really don’t like this show at all. And the fault isn’t really Dreyfus’s. She’s absolutely fine in the lead role, but there seriously isn’t one other character in this show who isn’t an obnoxious a-hole. The dialogue is mean-spirited and insulting, and there isn’t a warm or mirthful bone in the show’s body. This is a nasty, ugly show, and to make it worse, it’s just not that funny.
  • Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir – It’s Ladybug – I had never heard of this show before it started coming out on DVD, but I really kind of dig it. A French cartoon that’s been re-dubbed and imported onto American TV screens (via Nickelodeon), this show features two friends who are secretly animal-themed superheroes (and who have super-pets) and who try to protect Paris from the bad guys. Geared for slightly older kids, I think this is a really cute show and I can see it gaining a large following in the states, which seems evident as I’ve started to see it on toy and book shelves, as well as DVD shelves.
  • To Walk Invisible: The Bronte Sisters – Okay, so I’ll admit that aside from knowing that they wrote famous novels such as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, I know next to nothing about the lives of the three Bronte Sisters: Emily, Charlotte, and Anne, who are the subjects of this movie about the three siblings’ rise to become authors who would someday become staples of English classes around the world. While the film is a bit on the bleak side, it also tells the story of the hardship that brought about one of the great literary families of the 1800s. Worth a watch, especially if you’re into the classics.
  • Daughters of the Dust – According to the Blu-ray case, Daughters of the Dust was “The first wide release by a black female filmmaker, and was met with wild critical acclaim and rapturous audience response when it initially opened in 1991.” Okay, now I don’t want to argue with that, because maybe it’s more accurate than it seems, but I’ll admit I’d never even heard of the film before this release crossed my desk. And sometimes, there are movies that just aren’t for you. I don’t want to say anything bad about the film as it’s clearly a powerful film with a message that many people respond to. It’s just not the kind of movie I tend to enjoy or even – frankly – really get. I’ll say this: if you are one of the people who responded rapturously to this film upon its release, this is easily a welcome addition to your collection.
  • Wild Kratts: Panda-monium – I have to say, as far as kids shows go, The Wild Kratts is one of the better ones. It manages to combine animals and superhero-style adventures into one fun animated series that is both entertaining and educational. And, of course, not only do I find it enjoyable, but my kids also really like it, which is what’s really important. The show focuses on the Brothers Kratt, animal experts and adventurers, who use creature power suits to take on the traits of various animals and interact with them in their habitats. Along the way, a variety of villains, predators, or obstacles will show up, and the Kratt Brothers have to save the day. The show mixes in humor, action, and cool suit designs, plus it has a good supporting cast of characters that kids will like. The Kratt Brothers write, direct, produce, and provide voices for the show, and they’re pretty good at doing all of them!

Next PostPrevious Post

Amazon Prime Free Trial