OCTOBER 8TH, 2013

AFTER EARTH // Out of the gate, critics and general audiences will look down on Will Smith’s latest feature, “After Earth”. For starters, M. Night Shyamalan steps back into the director’s chair since his widely criticized endeavor “The Last Airbender”. Despite what the marketing would have you believe by keeping his name completely off of it, M. Night writes, directs, and produces this film. Also, critics pan this film due to Will Smith acting next to his son, Jaden, committing that there are far better teen actors for this role. Having seen the film, I disagree with both points. M. Night has definitely gone down hill in his performance lately, but what I caught during the credits is that this concept actually came from Will Smith with a “Story By” credit attached to his name. That means M. Night wasn’t in complete control of this film, with Will and Jada Pinkett Smith also credited as producers. So that means “After Earth” is just as much Smith’s baby as it is M. Night’s. With that, having Jaden in the film makes slightly more sense, as I am sure this concept came from Will in that he pictured himself with his son. Jaden is not the most seasoned actor and misses his mark on more than a few moments in this science fiction action film, but overall, he proves just fine and having him acting off his own father is likely what brings out those moments. Even down to the marketing this makes some sense. Look at the poster for “After Earth” where Jaden and Will both stare and you could almost mistake the two of them. There are times in the film where Jaden almost looks like his father from further away and I find that element of the film very strong. The father-son connection is what keeps this plot from falling through. The visual effects are dynamic and memorable, but its the growth between a distant father and son that will set it apart from any other post-apocalyptic Earth story. Had this come from anyone but M. Night and contained anyone but Jaden and the critics would have probably been on board with the semi-original, completely captivating thriller, but with so much to complain about before even sitting in their theater seats, this film was doomed the moment it came out of the can. Despite all that, “After Earth” is a strong family adventure and does reach further than I believed it could.

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THE HANGOVER PART III // There’s very little worse than leaving on a sour note. One would almost rather have simply stuck with “The Hangover” and wondered what could have been instead of driving this franchise through crapper after crapper. Todd Phillips will move on to other raunchy comedies and I can almost guarantee there will be a resurgence for “The Hangover” and even though this one touted being “The End”, that phrase means extremely little in Hollywood. So we can only hope that five or ten years down the road, Phillips, or hopefully even someone else, gets their shit together and brings these characters back to their glory days (I smell a prequel). And even if this future sequel is just as horrible as the last two, at least we’ll always have “The Hangover”.

THE LIFEGUARD // Who doesn’t wonder what it would be like to step back into the days of high school? The days before careers and serious relationships toiled our every day lives, when swimming at the local pool and the appropriate places to skateboard were your biggest worries. In “The Lifeguard”, leading lady Kristen Bell takes that step back, after a piece of her writing is rejected from her newspaper and the affair she is having comes to a close. Director Liz W. Garcia may never be praised for this film, but to her defense, this independent film takes many distinct and unexpected turns which keep it, at least minimally fresh and a nice change of pace. Kristen Bell’s character isn’t the only one taking strides to change, as Bell herself takes on this role in a little Indie, something we haven’t yet seen from her, and she dominates. Playing the flawed heroine, the first thing I noticed was the lack of make-up used in the film, which I wholly respect. She’s gorgeous and there’s no reason to cover that up. On top of that, she delivers a multi-layered performance, as her character falls down this underage rabbit hole, trying all she can to regain some semblance of youth before she turns 30. Although it could have easily spun into the normal rhetoric of sexual politics, especially with her blossoming romance with a boy half her age, but it stands its ground and I come to respect it more for that. The problem the film faces is its self-indulgence and slow pace, causing many viewers to cry boredom. But if you’re willing to put in the time and can appreciate a methodical, older than usual coming of age story, along with an above par showing from Kristen Bell, then “The Lifeguard” might just be better than the critics are making it.

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING // Easily one of the funniest William Shakespeare’s comedies to grace the big screen, “Much Ado About Nothing” is helped by Joss Whedon’s distinctive style of directing and producing humor from his brilliant and loyal cast of characters. As dense as the material can be, with Whedon using all the original text, the story eventually becomes easier to follow as the characters embrace their roles and bring their own spin on the line delivery. There are several moments throughout the film where you can pinpoint Whedon’s additions to the humor, with a certain look or action, set piece or location that brings a fresh take on a classic and helps keep the film current. Though I prefer the tragedies of Shakespeare, if anyone is going to handle a sophisticate comedy like this, who better than Joss Whedon, who yet again proves there’s no genre that he can’t conquer.

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THE PURGE // Remember that horror film with a vibe much like “The Strangers”, a genius marketing plan using billboards and radio advertisements that look and sound like public service announcements, and some real potential. Yeah, me too. It was called “The Purge” and like the blood-lusting lunatics grinning through their masks, this film left all of that potential at the front door. Don’t get me wrong, director James DeMonaco does produce some tense and thrilling moments, with a genius scheme of locking a threat inside with the innocent family while another threat tries to break in. Complete the scene with a shaky camera, dark hallways, and terrified faces and you’ve made yourself an enjoyable horror film. Also having familiar faces like Lena Headey and Ethan Hawke for audiences to latch onto helps keep things interesting, not to mention Adelaide Kane is stunning and Rhys Wakefield has a huge future playing villains with that chiseled face and huge smile. Where “The Purge” becomes bothersome is in its poor plot structure, weak character development, and barrage of social and political commentaries. Almost the entire film is set-up. We meet our characters, we are introduced to the world that they live in and the rules that they follow including the doozy, once a year allowing 12 hours of uninterrupted mayhem where even murder becomes legal. Once we finally get to the action, it’s over before we can even appreciate it. Also, the characters remain weak, especially the son (Max Burkholder) whose wishy-washy questions and blank stares do the film no favors. Most horror films succeed when they stand for something, alluding to an issue, no matter how vaguely or metaphorically, and making a statement that can be interpreted. “The Purge” slaps you across the face with these commentaries constantly and unabashed. Needless to say, most people walking into the theater to see this film knew what “The Purge” was from the ads, so spending nearly half of the film setting up the premise was ill-advised and unnecessary, leaving little room for the action to play out. Had the film stuck to the creepy, sadistic nature that everyone loved in “The Strangers” and this could have been a success. Instead, it is a standard thriller with very little else to offer.

New Releases
After Earth
Curse of Chucky
Europa Report
The Hangover Part III
The Lifeguard
Much Ado About Nothing
The Purge
Stuck In Love

TV Box Set

  • 90210: Season Five
  • A Day in the Life: Seasons One & Two
  • American Horror Story: Asylum 
  • The Avengers: Complete Emma Peel Megaset
  • Bones: Season Eight
  • The Guild: Complete Series
  • Hitler: Rise of Evil – Complete Mini-Series
  • In The Flesh: Season One
  • Inspector Gadget: Season One, V2
  • Mackenzie’s Raiders: Complete Series
  • Robot Chicken: Season Six
  • The Six Million Dollar Man: Season Four
  • We Without Wings: Season One
  • White Collar: Season Four

Special Editions/Other Releases

  • 4 Dead Girls: The Soul Taker
  • Aliyah
  • Approaching Midnight 2-denied2
  • The Bates Haunting
  • Berlin Job
  • Bratz Go to Paris the Movie
  • Butcher Boys 2-denied2
  • Butterfly (1982)
  • Chucky: The Complete Collection
  • Complicity (2012)
  • Dancing Ninja
  • The Depraved
  • Get Lucky
  • Great Gain
  • Home Invasion (2013)
  • Home Run (2012) 2-denied2
  • Homecoming (2012)
  • How To Seduce A Virgin
  • I Married a Witch: Criterion
  • In Hell
  • The Look of Love (2013)
  • Mea Maxima Culpa
  • Nothing Left To Fear (2013)
  • Patmos
  • Resolution 
  • The Sack of Rome
  • The Secret of Crickley Hall
  • Sexual Tension: Violetas
  • Shiver
  • Spooky House
  • Static (2012)
  • The Swan Princess Christmas
  • Thomas & Friends: Santas Little Engine
  • Touch of the Master’s Hand
  • Zombie Hunter (2013)
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