Efficient, nasty action scenes can't overcome mostly bland characterizations and a half-baked story.
Welcome to the first June 2016 version of the HECG, your guide to the latest and greatest on Netflix, Amazon, Vudu, iTunes, Blu-ray, DVD, and however you chose to watch movies this summer. The Blu-ray shelves are finally getting interesting again after a bit of a lull, as this week's guide sees new releases from Charlie Kaufman, Joel Coen, and Michael Bay. Netflix went a little more retro, and so we picked out ten titles that Roger reviewed himself. Watch the movie on Netflix, see what Roger had to say about it. And then buy a new Blu-ray from the list of the best new releases below.
10 NEW TO NETFLIX
8 NEW TO BLU-RAY/DVD
Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson's stop-motion animated masterpiece, our staff choice for the third best film of 2016, once looked like it could dominate the year-end conversation about movies, especially after rapturous reviews out of Venice and Toronto. When the discussion over the best animated film of the year swung back to Pixar's masterful "Inside Out" (our #2 film of the year overall, to be fair), it felt like Kaufman's film kind of fell under the radar. That's an oversight that will almost certainly be corrected now that it's on Blu-ray and DVD. Do your part and see this unique take on loneliness and identity that's unlike any film you've ever seen before not made by Charlie Kaufman.Buy it here
None of Them Are You: Crafting Anomalisa
Intimacy in Miniature
The Sound of Unease
"Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan"
The most popular film in the "Star Trek" franchise gets a lavish Blu-ray treatment from Paramount, complete with a director's cut version that has never been available in HD before. The company is starting to try and build buzz for "Star Trek Beyond," releasing next month, and they're surely fearful that "Beyond" will fall into the same Sequelitis Abyss that has led to disappointing grosses for films like "X-Men: Apocalypse" and "Alice Through the Looking Glass." They're also releasing 4K UHD versions of "Star Trek" and "Star Trek Into Darkness" shortly. But back to "Khan." Nicholas Meyer's sequel took the family-friendly dynamic of the first film and expanded it into something darker, a universe in which the stakes felt real for arguably the first time. It's clearly been a template for numerous other sequels that raised the stakes and enriched the characters instead of just repeating themselves. Let's hope "Beyond" follows that same model.Buy it here
Director's Cut and Theatrical Version of the Feature Film
Commentary by Director Nicholas Meyer (Director's Cut and Theatrical Version)
Commentary by Director Nicholas Meyer and Manny Cota (Theatrical Version)
Text Commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda (Director's Cut)
Library Computer (Theatrical Version)
The Genesis Effect: Engineering the Wrath of Khan HD
The Star Trek Universe Featurettes
Farewell: A Tribute to Ricardo Montalban
For the first half of the Coens' lighthearted Hollywood comedy, I was thrown off by the episodic nature of it all. Using a studio "clean-up man" played by Josh Brolin as a throughline, the Coens bounce around various subplots, including a cowboy (the naturally talented Alden Ehrenreich) in need of a makeover and a pregnant mermaid (Scarlett Johannson). The ads for "Caesar" sold it as another wacky George Clooney comedy (he plays a movie star kidnapped by Communists), but it's not broad enough to hit that demo audience, and I think that's why so many people responded negatively to it in theaters. Be patient with the Coens' latest. Let it work its magic and wait until it's over to consider its deft touch, incredible intelligence, and playful spirit. And adore the fact that Joel and Ethan wrote a film about the pliability and disposability of actors and then gathered their most A-list cast to convey it.
An Era of Glamour
The Stars Align
Magic of a Bygone Era
While I find some parts of the racial profiling allegory at the core of "Zootopia" a little incomplete and the final film runs a bit long every time I see it, it's definitely a work that holds up well on repeat viewing, which, as other parents will agree, is essential when deciding whether or not to buy a Blu-ray of a family film. How will I feel about this movie the 18th time? Kids like to watch things over and over again (I should know, I have three), and repeat viewing of "Zootopia" reveals the depth of detail in this world, one that I think we'll be revisiting multiple times over the next decade or so given "Zootopia"'s incredible success.
Zoology: The Roundtables
The Origin Of An Animal Tale
Research: A True-Life Adventure
Z.P.D. Forensic Files
Deleted Scenes & More!
"Cat Ballou" (Twilight Time)
Twilight Time has been kind enough to send over some of their limited edition releases every month and I had time to pop in this Oscar winner, a film that has developed something of a divisive reputation over the years. For everyone who finds it ridiculous that Lee Marvin won the Oscar for his dual role, there are people who adore this comedy-western-musical. I'm kind of in between, but the TT transfer allows one to appreciate the star power on display here. Jane Fonda was arguably never more charismatic and beautiful and Marvin adds a layer of drunken fun that feels like it's been copied about a 1,000 times since. The Farrelly Brothers and Bryan Cranston are both vocal fans of "Cat Ballou." You owe it your film history to find out why.
Isolated Score Track
Audio Commentary with Actors Michael Callan and Dwayne Hickman
Audio Commentary with Film Historians Eddy Friedfeld, Lee Pfeiffer, and Paul Scrabo
Lee and Pamela: A Romance
The Legend of Cat Ballou
Original Theatrical Trailer
"Vinyl: The Complete First Season"
The latest venture from TV genius Terrence Winter ("The Sopranos," "Boardwalk Empire") hasn't become the cultural phenomenon of his previous work for HBO, and nearly wasn't renewed by the network. Perhaps HBO is banking on a few upcoming Emmy nominations to build buzz, and I find it especially interesting that they've released the divisive first season quickly, rather than wait for season two as they do with most of their shows (for years, the pattern was always that we would get the last season just before the new one started). "Vinyl" is a hit-and-miss affair, but it's riveting television when it's working, and the Blu-ray is typical-for-HBO loaded with special features, including audio commentaries with the show's talented stars. I think "Vinyl" could turn it around and become a more grounded and interesting show in season two.
"Rick and Morty: Season Two"
Quick, what's the best animated show on TV? A case could be made for the twisted fantasy of "Adventure Time," the family charm of "Bob's Burgers," the still-razor-sharp wit of "South Park," or the always-funny "Archer." If you're a fan of any of those shows, especially the last two in that they skew more adult than child, then you really need to check out Adult Swim's incredibly funny "Rick and Morty," uncensored in its ten-episode Blu-ray release. The concept is simple: What if a kid's crazy old mad scientist uncle was actually able to pull off the experiments he initiated (like time travel, alternate universes, etc.)? The result is a consistently clever program that always surprises in its sense of humor. There's really nothing else like "Rick and Morty" on TV.
Deleted Animatic Scenes
An Alternate Version of the Season Premiere
Audio Commentaries for All 10 Episodes
Season 2 Premiere Party
"13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi"
What's the general critical consensus on Michael Bay in 2016? I can't keep track. Am I going to get yelled at for admitting that I didn't hate "13 Hours"? Sure, it's politically messy and downright xenophobic at times, but the filmmaking prowess is kind of impossible to deny unless you're really trying. Bay brings his all to a story that he's absolutely dying to tell, especially after he didn't get to make "Black Hawk Down" and "Lone Survivor" (two projects that he was attached to at different times). The point is that Bay has been jonesing to make a patriotic war movie for decades and he doesn't slouch at all. So, if you're intent on judging a film on what it sets out to be, "13 Hours" works. In other words, it hits its target audience directly. It's up to you to decide if you're in that target before you rent it.
- Over one hour of bonus scene content!
3 NEW TO VOD