New DVD releases and What the Critics Said

1. The Lego Movie (Available 6/17)

Boasting beautiful animation, a charming voice cast, laugh-a-minute gags, and a surprisingly thoughtful story, The Lego Movie is colorful fun for all ages.” -Rotten Tomatoes consensus. 

2. Grand Budapest Hotel (6/17)

“Typically stylish but deceptively thoughtful, The Grand Budapest Hotel finds Wes Anderson once again using ornate visual environments to explore deeply emotional ideas.” -RT consensus.

3. Joe (6/17)

“Rich in atmosphere and anchored by a powerful performance from Nicolas Cage, Joe is a satisfying return to form for its star — as well as director David Gordon Green.” -RT consensus.

4. Robocop (6/3)

“While it’s far better than it could have been, José Padilha’s RoboCop remake fails to offer a significant improvement over the original.” -RT Consenus

5. Lone Survivor (6/3)

“A true account of military courage and survival, Lone Survivor wields enough visceral power to mitigate its heavy-handed jingoism.” -RT Consensus

6. Son of God (6/3)

“The faithful may find their spirits raised, but on purely cinematic terms, Son of God is too dull and heavy-handed to spark much fervor.” -RT Consensus.

 

Giveaway: ‘Grace Unplugged’ DVD and Soundtrack

Grace Unplugged comes out on DVD February 11.

Watch Sister Rose’s review here.

We have a copy of the movie and a soundtrack to give away. Just leave a comment below to be entered to win. We will announce the winner on February 19.

Home Viewing: Haywire

Bottom Line: With real Gladiator punches and mixed marital arts kicks, this is a heavy-duty action movie.

The Gist: Gina Carano is a real-life mixed martial arts fighter, so when Steven Sodebergh cast her in an action movie, she was ready. She plays a operative for hire (but only to good guys) whose business partners decide they’ve had enough of her, um, services. Suddenly, she’s fighting her former colleagues. The plot, however, isn’t as important as the serious, serious fight sequences.

The Verdict: Watch it if you like action. It’s very good, very tough. Read our full review and our appreciation for Gina Carano as a female action star (hint: She doesn’t look like she’s going to snap a twiggy limb when she hits someone).

Be Aware: Rated R, the film has one sex scene, not particularly graphic, some language, and a whole lotta violence.

Drive

Bottom Line: Underneath its stylized direction and shocking violence, DRIVE is a fantastic tale about a man fully and selflessly committed to protecting the weak and innocent.

The Gist: When a strong, silent type (Ryan Gosling) meets a single mother (Carey Mulligan), they forge a sweet connection. He’s got secrets, however, which involve working for criminal elements and she has a husband in prison. The two worlds collide, threatening her and her little son, and forcing the Driver to call out a network of criminals across Los Angeles.

The Verdict: Watch it if you can stand violence. The acting is all top notch, especially from Gosling, Mulligan, and Albert Brooks. Like an old Western, a man of violence takes on men of violence, even knowing that by doing so, he both protects and perhaps loses the innocent woman he loves. The directing is fantastic, unlike anything you’ve seen, art house meets action. It made number seven on our list of the best movies of 2011.

Be Aware: Rated R for extreme violence, language, and some nudity. Little to none sexuality. But the violence is extreme.

The Big Year

Bottom Line: Full of quiet goofiness and sweet moments, this flick about birdwatching is better than you expect.

The Gist: Three passionate birdwatchers set out separately to break the record of the most birds seen in a calendar year. A rich executive trying to retire (Steve Martin), a young loser trying to do something with his life (Jack Black), and a cocky champion defending his title (Owen Wilson) all follow the same trail of blue breasted pipers and pink footed geese.

The Verdict: Watch it. In equal parts funny and touching, the film centers on birdwatching, but could really be about any passion. The central question is how far one will go to accomplish a goal and what one is willing to lose in integrity and family ties. While passion is a good thing, taken too far, the winner might find the record is all he has in life and the losers might be the real winners.

Be Aware: Rated PG for some light language and implied sensuality (between a married couple, mildly shown). Appropriate for grade schoolers, in fact, my three children loved it.

 

Ides of March

Bottom Line: This tale of losing innocence in a high-stakes primary presidential campaign is well-done, but will appeal to a small audience.

The Gist: Steven (Ryan Gosling) is a young politico working on the campaign of the man he believes should be the next president (George Clooney). As the primary race shenanigans heat up, Steven is courted by the opposition and Steven discovers something about his boss that could be a race-killer. Read our full review.

The Verdict: If you love politics, watch it. It’s a gritty, savvy, and fairly realistic look at the inside of a campaign, although some of the Democratic policies advocated in the background are  downright laughable (I’m talking about you, mandatory-two-years-of-service). Clooney, no stranger to politics, knows more about the system than most of Hollywood, yet the film ends up being anything but idealistic. Its deep thread of cynicism will make you want to move to a monarchy, which is why it earned a place on our list of the most Blue State movies of 2011.

Be Aware: Rated R for pervasive language, this film contains no violence. It has a sexual storyline that is not shown, but is part of the plot. Suitable for some teens.

Higher Ground

Bottom Line: This film about Evangelical Christianity in the ’70s is respectful, but falls short of being profound.

The Gist: The movie follows Connie Walker (Vera Farminga, who also directed) from her secular childhood, teen love, early marriage, conversion to faith,  Christian life, and eventual questioning and falling away, focusing heavily on a Jesus-people style group of Christians in the ’70s and ’80s.

The Verdict: People interested in faith on film should watch it, everyone else will be bored. The film does not mock its subject matter, which is refreshing, but it does question it. For the most part, Farminga is so careful to not disrespect the faith she examines that the movie feels like a documentary: factual but with little commentary or emotion. The one scene that does break your heart has little to do with faith and everything to do with the tragedy of love lost. The lack of attention paid to Connie’s struggle and questions is staggering, but the film should be a call to people in the church to examine themselves and not to disparage Farminga’s attempt to honor and respect her upbringing while still not embracing it.

Be Aware: Rated R for some language and sexual content. The language is pervasive and the sexual content is not graphic and happens mainly in the context of marriage. Not a movie for teens unless parents have prescreened it.

DVD Release: Conan the Barbarian

The Gist: Conan angry. Conan avenge father’s murder. Conan no need girl to slow him down. Wait. Girl pretty.

Bottom Line: “I live. I love. I slay. I am content,” but I have no need for production values, coherently written script, or respectable acting. Read our original review.

Be Aware: Rated R, this movie uses more blood than a Twilight sparkily vampire convention. Also has a love scene that leaves little to the imagination although it takes place in an uncomfortable and chilly looking cave.

Verdict: Skip it. Do not waste your life on this. Unless you need a movie to mock, then it’s the perfect candidate.

DVD Release: Crazy Stupid Love


Steve Carell and Julianne Moore play a separated couple in Crazy Stupid Love

 

“Crazy Stupid Love” is out on DVD today.

Bottom Line: Sweet, funny, well acted, this love story for adults is great, right up to the ending of a minor storyline that is very nearly a dealbreaker.

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