One of Guy Pearce’s best known roles was as an amnesiac whose memory slightly comes back to him via Polaroid pictures in Memento, and in Spinning Man he’s afflicted with a similar condition.
Evan Birch (Pearce) is a college philosophy professor who, although being a family man (Minnie Driver plays his wife), has lecherous tendencies to his students. When a 17-year-old girl (Odeya Rush) goes missing, Detective Malloy (Pierce Brosnan) places Evan as the primary suspect.Alexandra Shipp co-stars as a fellow student who finds herself attracted to Evan, and her infatuation may lead to disastrous results.
Director Simon Kaijser infuses his thriller with an immersive feel, as we see the events unfold primarily through Evan’s eyes. Since Evan has his share of memory lapses and has an interesting take on morality (thanks to his philosophical pursuits), he’s a refreshingly unpredictable character. Driver also does solid work in the feature, which had me guessing about Evan’s guilt right until the very end. The Blu-ray comes with a much needed director’s commentary, and Kaijser thankfully clears up the film’s intricately woven ending (fyi, my interpretation of the final events were entirely wrong, so I appreciated the commentary track). Also included are four minutes worth of deleted scenes and the “Inside Spinning Man” featurette.”
Now out on Blu-ray and DVD Father Figures centers on Kyle (Ed Helms) and Peter (Owen Wilson), fraternal twins who, on their mother’s (Glenn Close) wedding learn that their late father is actually not their dad! Determined to find their biological father, the pair go on a quest where they meet several guys who could be their dad (Terry Bradshaw plays himself, JK Simmons is a criminal, and Christopher Walken is a veterinarian).
This road comedy, which if one judges by the poster, may seem like an innocuous, forgettable affair but surprisingly the flick has a ton of heart and, running at 113 minutes, a well developed storyline. Credit goes to director Lawrence Sher for making Kyle, who is a stuffy proctologist, a rather unlikable dude for a substantial portion of the narrative. Peter, a millionaire who lucked into his money (he’s the logo for a popular drink), is the more easygoing of the two, and his zest for life absolutely rubs Kyle the wrong way. Bradshaw, Simmons, and Walken all have their moments to shine, but it’s Katt Williams as a hitchhiker they pick up along the way who steals the show.
Along with being a solid and ultimately heartwarming comedy, Father Figures also has 21 minutes of deleted scenes that are featured on both the Blu-ray and DVD versions. These sequences included more moments with Glenn Close, a bonding moment between Kyle and his son, and a scene from Peter and Kyle’s childhood that establishes their rivalry. Overall, Father Figures is definitely worth a look if you’re a fan of the two leads but, more importantly, if you dig comedies that unabashedly pulls your heart strings.
The age of physical media may be going the way of the dodo bird, but there are still legitimate cases to be made for having an extensive Blu-ray collection. Streaming your films may be wonderful if your internet never gets laggy, but from my perspective having a disc handy, especially with first rate features, is absolutely necessary.
Murder on the Orient Express, ambitiously directed by Kenneth Branagh (who’s also convincing as Hercule Poirot), is an absolute visual stunner. Branagh brings his underrated cinematic scope (for examples, check out his flicks Hamlet and Thor) into Agatha Christie’s immersive world, as Poirot investigates the passengers on a train where someone was recently murdered.
Boasting an all-star cast that includes Daisy Ridley, Penelope Cruz, and Michelle Pfeiffer (delivering the film’s most standout performance!), Murder on the Orient Express is a must-have if you love watching a beautifully mounted production that’s anchored by first rate stortyelling.
Click on the media bar to hear Daisy Ridley talk about what makes Murder on the Orient Express a unique film:
Murder on the Orient Express also boasts an array of special features, but the crown jewel of the extras are its deleted scenes. The 16 minutes worth of extra footage brings a more comedic element to the proceedings, as Poirot’s obsessive grooming is played for laughs. Also included is a surreal montage sequence which Branagh cites as an homage to the Salvador Dali scene in Spellbound. Last but not least, there is an extended section at the Arasta Bazaar which introduces all the major players of the film (the final scene is much more brisk). The extras also include several featurettes (including a spotlight on Agatha Christie and the music behind the film) as well as commentary from Branagh and screenwriter Michael Green.
Don’t let the the plotline fool you, as Wonder is not an overly sappy family drama that aims for the lowest common denominator. For one, the picture, which is based on R.J. Palacio’s 2012 novel, is directed by The Perks of Being a Wallflower filmmaker Stephen Chbosky. As with Perks, Chbosky approaches the material with insight, preferring to let this refreshingly intricate story (and not cloying emotion) lead the way.
The storyline centers on Auggie (Room’s Jacob Tremblay), a boy with a facial deformity who enters fifth grade. Home schooled and sheltered by his parents (Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson) and older sister Via (Izabela Vidovic), Auggie has a hard time fitting in thanks to a bullying classmate (Bryce Gheisar) and his friends. Slowly but surely, Auggie makes a couple of friends and gradually finds that school actually has its merits.
The tale may be predictable, but Chbosky frames his narrative by giving various characters their own moment in the film to shine. For example, Via has her very own subplot which deals with her own feelings of neglect (Vidovic, who does a stirring monologue in the picture, is a revelation). Noah Jupe, who plays Auggie’s best friend Jack, is also given his own section of the story which also bolsters the narrative. Roberts and Wilson, though they are the film’s A-list stars, are just a small part of the overall picture, as Tremblay’s excellent performance is ultimately the star of the picture.
Special features on the Blu-ray include a five-part documentary, three featurettes (a look at the making of the soundtrack, “What a Wonderful World”, “A Child’s Sense of Wonder”), audio commentary from Chbosky and Palacio, and a music video (“Brand New Eyes”). The DVD version comes with the commentary, music video, and the soundtrack featurette.
Click on the media bar below to hear Julia Roberts talk about one of the themes behind Wonder:
As always, Shout! Factory manages to pull forgotten films from the past to satiate many a cinephile. Case in point is Shakedown, a 1988 flick which, since Lethal Weapon was made the previous year, seems like a flick that tried to capitalize on the buddy/buddy crime drama dynamic. Peter Weller and Sam Elliott may not reach the cinematic heights of Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy (48 Hrs.) or Danny Glover and Mel Gibson, but they do a fine job with Shakedown. If you love this action driven genre where the two leads are seeming diametrically opposite in character, then Shakedown doesn’t disappoint.
Penned and directed by James Glickenhaus, Shakedown centers on Roland Dalton (Weller), a Jimi Hendrix loving defense lawyer who’s about to get married and settle down for a life in Wall Street. But big money dreams and a life in the suburbs isn’t what he’s all all about, and when he believes a drug dealer (Richard Brooks) killed an undercover police officer in self-defense, Roland is immediately on the case. Roland’s determination to ensure his client doesn’t receive a first degree murder charge leads him into a dangerous territory of corrupt cops, but thankfully his good buddy Richie Marks (Sam Elliott) is actually an upstanding police officer.
Roland and Richie team up to take down the police ring whose profiteering played a huge part in the criminal’s predicament, but considering it’s two men against a seemingly indestructible crew, this mission may not go as planned.
Along with featuring several show stopping action scenes (including one with Sam Elliott hoping on a plane to catch the bad guys) and infusing solid character development (though the film spends most of its time focusing on Roland’s journey, this is a well written narrative). Elliott does most of the flick’s refreshingly ambitious action sequences with Weller anchoring most of the drama).
Last, but definitely not least, there is a standout moment at a diner as Roland and Richie share their mutual heartbreaks in the love department. Richie recounts a lost love/dog story that is absolutely one of the saddest canine stories I’ve heard in cinema, and Shakedown is worth it just for that standout sequence.
Special features on the Blu-ray include audio commentary from Glickenhaus (which is moderated by an interviewer), a video introduction from Glickenhaus, theatrical trailer, photo stills and a must see segment in which the director discusses how he once saved Miles Davis’ life!!
Director/writer Dean Devlin, best known for his Independence Day and Stargate screenplays, is behind the camera with the underrated disaster epic Geostorm. Recently released on Blu-ray and DVD, the picture had a worldwide gross of $220 million, but it should have received much more attention stateside (it reached just $33 million in receipts).
For one, Gerard Butler is an engaging protagonist as Jake Lawson, the creator of the network of satellites that has kept Earth from succumbing to natural disasters and the destructive effects of climate change. Lawson’s understandable aversion to authority leads to his eventual unemployment, but he’s needed three years later when a “geostorm” threatens the planet.
Jim Sturgess is Jake’s brother Max, a career driven climber in politics who’s tasked by his superior (Ed Harris) to enlist Jake for the latest mission, with Abbie Cornish starring as Max’s girlfriend (and agent) Sarah. Andy Garcia rounds out the A-list cast as the President, a man who, upon seeking reelection, may be a conspirator behind the latest satellite debacle.
Click on the media bar below to hear Butler talk about working with Geostorm co-star Jim Sturgess:
The Blu-ray comes with the featurettes “Wreaking Havoc,” “Search for Answers,” and “An International Event.” In the “Search for Answers” segment, Devlin added that he rifles through his first draft of a screenplay in a quick manner to give even more time for the succeeding drafts and edits. He also adds that Geostorm’s idea came from his own daughter, who asked him why there wasn’t a big machine to actually combat climate change.