Category Archives: DVD MOVIE REVIEWS

Movies now on DVD.

RED SPARROW (2017) – My rating: 8.3/10

Red Sparrow is a Spy thriller directed by Francis Lawrence and written by Justin Haythe, based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Jason Matthews. It tells the story of a Russian intelligence officer who is sent to make contact with a CIA agent in the hope of discovering the identity of a mole. Red Sparrow is a pretty sexy movie that implies, Russians will do anything to achieve their goals.  I thought Red Sparrow was well done.

In modern-day Russia, Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence) is a famed Russian ballerina who supports her ill mother. Following a career-ending injury, Dominika is approached by her uncle, Ivan Vladimirovich Egorov (Matthias Schoenaerts), who works in Russian Intelligence. Because of the accident she suffered, Dominika is no longer able to dance and is out of work.  Ivan convinces her to do a job which tasks her with seducing Dimitry Ustinov (Kristof Konrad), a Russian gangster, in exchange for her mother’s continued medical care. As Ustinov rapes her, he is killed by Sergei Matorin (Sebastian Hülk), a Russian operative and torture expert.  Ivan then offers Dominika a choice to begin working for Russian Intelligence, or be executed so there are no witnesses to the murder of Ustinov, which he ordered.

— SPOILERS BELOW —

Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton) is a CIA operative working in Moscow. While meeting with an asset in Gorky Park, they are confronted by the police. Nash creates a diversion to ensure his asset, a mole in Russian ranks, code-named Marble, escapes detection. Nash is reassigned back to the US but insists that he is the only individual whom Marble will work with. Since he cannot return to Russia, he is assigned to Budapest, where he will regain contact with Marble.

Dominika begins training to become a Russian operative, known as a ‘Sparrow’, capable of seducing her targets. Dominika excels in her training, despite some friction with her trainers, and she is assigned to Budapest. Russian SVR has been tracking Nash, hoping to find out the identity of Marble. Dominika’s assignment is to gain the trust of Nash, and reveal his contact.

Upon her arrival in Budapest, Dominika lives with Marta Yelenova (Thekla Reuten), another Sparrow. Her boss in Budapest is Maxim Volontov (Douglas Hodge). Dominika quickly makes contact with Nash, who correctly determines that she is a Russian Intelligence operative. Dominika reveals her true identity to him, as well as her motive to find out Marble’s identity. While Marta is out, Dominika inspects her room, and realizes that she is working to gather information from Stephanie Boucher (Mary Louise-Parker), chief of staff for a US Senator. Dominika also realizes she needs more time, and claims to her uncle that she is helping in Marta’s effort to gather information from Boucher. Upon returning home one day, Dominika finds Marta brutally tortured and murdered. Matorin reveals that he carried out the murder as a warning not to betray Russian secrets.

From this point, there is much more action as well as twist and turns.  Additionally, Jeremy Irons is in the cast and Dominika turns out to be a very clever young lady, capable of taking her new found position to many levels.  The plot thickens and so does the intensity.  There’s violence and explicit sexy scenes that are appropriate to what’s going on in the moment.  Red Sparrow is not suited for children. I mention this because I saw a dad with his young child in the audience.  I wanted to say something but I knew better.  Red Sparrow was brilliantly acted. Jennifer’s Russian accent was a little shaky at times, almost absent, but was convincing enough that it didn’t take away from the film.  I enjoyed the movie and recommend it to adults who would enjoy a pretty good adventurous spy flick.  Check it out!

 

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WONDER (2017) – My rating: 8/10

Wonder is a drama directed by Stephen Chbosky and written by Jack Thorne, Steve Conrad, and Stephen Chbosky, based on the 2012 novel of the same name by R.J. Palacio.  The film follows a child with Treacher Collins syndrome trying to fit in the mainstream. Having had a child born with a Bilateral Clef Lip, I was reluctant to see Wonder.  Unlike the parents of Auggie, I never knew what the bullying was like for my child because I was divorced and had a prominent career that kept me from the close relationship between child, school and myself.  After seeing Wonder, I was more mellon collie than ever, however it’s not a problem now, just a distant memory, since my daughter is a beautiful, highly educated women with a career of her own. Wonder reflects more on the bullying than anything else.

August “Auggie” Pullman (Jacob Tremblay) is a young boy raised in North River Heights in upper Manhattan, New York. He has a rare medical facial deformity, which he refers to as “mandibulofacial dysostosis.” Due to numerous surgeries (27), Auggie had been home-schooled by his parents Isabel Pullman (Julia Roberts) and Nate Pullman (Owen Wilson), but as Auggie is approaching middle school age, Isabel and Nate decide to send him to Beecher Prep, a mainstream private school. Fifth grade is tough for Auggie who is ostracized by nearly all the student body. He is bullied by being called a freak and rumors were spread that kids will get the “plague” if they touch him. He does befriend a boy named Jack Will (Noah Jupe).

Halloween is Auggie’s favorite holiday. He has to wear an old “Ghostface” mask and costume because his dog, Daisy, threw up on his “Boba Fett” costume. He walks around school unrecognized and is not tormented while incognito. As he walks through the door to his homeroom, he overhears his friend Jack telling Julian Albans (Bryce Gheisar) that he was “only pretending to be friends with Auggie.” Feeling betrayed, Auggie leaves school and wants to stay home during trick-or-treating. His older sister Olivia Pullman (Izabela Vidovic: older/Maccie Margaret Chbosky: younger), nicknamed “Via,” tells him she is still his friend and talks him out of it. Auggie later confides the incident to a new friend, named Summer Dawson (Millie Davis), but swears her to secrecy. When Jack notices that Auggie has become quiet and distant he asks Summer why, but she only gives him the clue “Ghost Face”. Jack is shocked when it dawns on him that it was Auggie wearing the Ghost Face costume, and thus had overheard everything he said to Julian. When Julian calls Auggie a “freak,” Jack becomes enraged and  punches him in the face.  A fight ensues between the two, which is soon broken up by their homeroom teacher Mr. Browne (Daveed Diggs).  Jack is suspended for two days for his actions. Jack also apologizes to Auggie and the two friends reconcile. They even team up for a winning science project.

This is probably a good place to leave you wanting to see more of this very sensitive movie that is very well done.  The acting is brilliant as is the make-up and directing.  I really think everyone should see Wonder, especially “bullies” in hopes Wonder will strike a nerve.  Anyone could and should put themselves in Auggie’s shoes, it’s not a very good feeling.  I think this is a must see movie for everyone.  Wonder can now be seen on DVD and Blu-ray.  Check it out!

[Wonder is Oscar nominated for Best Makeup and Hairstyling]

 

LOVING VINCENT (2017) – My rating: 7.5/10

Loving Vincent is a 2017 experimental animated biographical drama about the life of painter Vincent van Gogh, and in particular, the circumstances of his death. Loving Vincent is written and directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman and is the first fully painted animated feature film. Every frame is hand oil painted on canvas, which has never been done before making Loving Vincent the most unique animated film. It took a team of 125 painters to achieve its visual master piece.

One year after Vincent van Gogh’s (Robert Gulaczyk) suicide, Postman Joseph Roulin (Chris O’Dowd) asks his son Armand (Douglas Booth) to deliver Van Gogh’s last letter to his brother, Theodorus “Theo” van Gogh (Bartlomiej Sroka). Roulin finds Vincent’s death suspicious, as merely weeks earlier Van Gogh claimed through letters that his mood was calm and normal. Armand reluctantly agrees and heads off for Paris.

Père Tanguy (John Sessions), a Montmartre art supplier, tells Armand that Theo actually died six months after Vincent. He suggests that Armand travel to Auvers-sur-Oise and look for Dr. Paul Gachet (Jerome Flynn), who housed Van Gogh after his release from an asylum, shared his love for art, and attended the funeral.   Once there, Armand learns that the doctor is out on business.

Will Armand get to the bottom of the mystery concerning Van Gogh’s death?  While the adventure is skimpy, it gives you much school for thought.  Don’t look for too many answers because they’re not there.  I found the story to lack content therefore not doing justice to the uniqueness of this film.  I’ve rated it mostly on the oil painted frames.  Loving Vincent is not a bad movie, however, it’s definitely not for children — they would fall asleep or just not show any interest.  Loving Vincent is on DVD and Blu-Ray if you’re interested.  It would be great just to see the frame work.  Check it out!

[Loving Vincent is Oscar nominated for Best Animated Feature]

 

FERDINAND (2017) – My rating: 8.5/10

Ferdinand is a 3D computer-animated comedy-drama adventure film produced by Blue Sky Studios, Davis Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Animation. The film was based on Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson’s children’s book, The Story of Ferdinand, written by Robert L. Baird, Tim Federle and Brad Copeland and directed by Carlos Saldanha.  Ferdinand is another animated movie I was obligated to see because of the Oscars.  Ferdinand is also another animated movie I was happy to have seen because it was excellent with a beautiful message.  I must say, animation story telling is getting better and better.

Ferdinand opens in Spain on a ranch owned by Moreno (Raúl Esparza) called Casa del Toro that trains bulls for bullfighting.  There is where a bull calf named Ferdinand (Colin H. Murphy) lives.  He is ridiculed by his fellow calves, Bones (Nile Diaz), Guapo (Jet Jurgensmeyer), and Valiente (Jack Gore) for being non-confrontational and for his habit of smelling and protecting flowers.  After months and months of ridicule, a melon collie Ferdinand runs away from home after his father, Raf (Jeremy Sisto) doesn’t return to the ranch after being chosen for a bull fight, plus a flower Ferdinand was fond of was flattened by Valiente after his own father was defeated by Raf. Running away eventually lands Ferdinand at a florist’s farm, where he is lovingly accepted and adopted into the family.

Ferdinand (John Cena) eventually grows up into an enormous bull, he still retains his non-violent, flower-loving nature. Due to his size, he is left alone when his new family, Juan (Juanes), Nina (Lily Day), and their dog, Paco (Jerrod Carmichael), goes to the town of Ronda for an annual flower festival. Against the family’s decision that Ferdinand stay home for his own protection, he decides to go to the festival anyway.  As a result, Ferdinand gets stung by a bee and unintentionally causes much chaos around town that results in him being sent back to Casa del Toro, much to his and the family’s sadness.

Once back at his old ranch, Ferdinand finds his old friends, Bones (Anthony Anderson), Guapo (Peyton Manning), and Valiente (Bobby Cannavale) have also grown up and have been joined by a Scottish bull named Angus (David Tennant) and a silent but intimidating bull named Maquina (Tim Nordquist). Ferdinand is still disrespected by the bulls, but manages to befriend a crazy goat named Lupe (Kate McKinnon).

Ferdinand goes on to bigger and more exciting adventures. The message projected in Ferdinand is extremely profound.  Between Ferdinand’s beginnings at Casa del Toro to the Florist farm and back to Casa del Toro, there are many plots to explore.  I am unable to find anything negative about this film.  Ferdinand is brilliantly smart, beautifully illustrated and well acted with lessens to be had by all. Or course, the actors only lend their voices to the characters.  I highly recommend Ferdinand, which is now on DVD and Blu-Ray and is also streaming on Amazon.  I don’t think you can go wrong with this one, the kids will love it!

[Ferdinand is Oscar nominated for Best Animated Feature.]

 

THE BREADWINNER (2017) – My rating: 10/10

The Breadwinner is an animated drama film by Cartoon Saloon. It is directed by Nora Twomey and executive produced by Mimi Polk Gitlin and Angelina Jolie. Based on the best-selling novel by Deborah Ellis, the film is an international co-production between Canada, Ireland, and Luxembourg. Being animated is not my favorite type of movie, however The Breadwinner is one of the best animated films I’ve seen. First I saw Coco and it was my pick for the Oscar, but after seeing The Breadwinner, I changed my vote. Welcome to the real world with an animated feature that was significant and profound — it has a real message!

Parvana is a young girl living in Kabul, Afghanistan, under control of the Taliban. Her father Nurullah, who is a teacher handicapped during The Soviet–Afghan War and turned a hawker, is unjustly arrested after a volatile young member of the Taliban, Idrees, thinks he insulted him while the he and his daughter, Parvana are selling goods at the Kabul market. Parvana’s family is left without an adult male relative, as her elder brother Sulayman died years ago, leaving their family: Parvana/ Aatish (Saara Chaudry), her mother Fattema (Laara Sadiq), her sister Soraya (Shaista Latif) and her baby brother Zaki (Lily Erlinghauser) without means to support themselves, as they are not allowed outside their house without a male relative. After Parvana unsuccessfully tries to procure food while going out as a girl, she decides to dress as a boy and pretend to be Nurullah’s (Ali Badshah) nephew, “Aatish,” in order to support the family. Parvana frequently entertains Zaki by telling the story of a young man on a journey to retrieve the seeds stolen by the evil Elephant King.

The ploy works, and Parvana is able to get food and money. While working, she meets another young girl, Shauzia (Soma Bhatia), who is dressing as a boy to support her family.  Parvana gets lots of advise from Shauzia who shows her how to make better profits to survive.  On the advise of Shauzia, Parvana goes to the prison where her father is held in hopes of bribing the guards into letting her see him. The plan fails, and Parvana is driven away. She works to save money to get a larger bribe, taking on hard labor jobs with Shauzia, who is trying to save enough money to escape her abusive father.

The rest of this story really moved me to tears.  The Breadwinner is a heartfelt story of how another part of the world is for a family and how suppressed women are under the Taliban.  Parvana moves on to many adventures including trying to get her father out of prison.  While I think Coco is an excellent, fun filled story, I think The Breadwinner is a story that needs to be recognized and seen everywhere.  Kudos to Deborah Ellis for writing this beautiful story.  If you haven’t seen The Breadwinner, please make an effort to rent it, as it is now on DVD / Blu-ray and streaming on Netflix.  Check it out!

[The Breadwinner is Oscar nominated for Best Animated Feature.]

MUDBOUND (2017) – MY rating: 7.5/10

Mudbound is an American period drama directed by Dee Rees and written by Rees and Virgil Williams, based on the novel of the same name by Hillary Jordan. Mudbound is a Netflix Original production. The film depicts two World War II veterans – one white, one black – who return to rural Mississippi each to address racism and PTSD in his own way. I never really wanted to see this movie because it just stirs up painful issues of yesterday, which I’ve seen enough of.  However, I found Mudbound different from what I’m use to seeing — all history albeit redundant is significant, so I watched it, especially because Mudbound is Oscar nominated.

Henry McAllan (Jason Clarke) and his brother Jamie (Garrett Hedlund) struggle to bury their recently deceased father, Pappy (Jonathan Banks) during a rainstorm. When the coffin proves too heavy for the two of them, Henry flags the passing Jackson family for help, despite the obvious tension shared by both families.

The film then flashes back to 1939, when Henry buys a farm outside the fictional town of Marietta, Mississippi, in the Mississippi Delta, and moves there with his wife Laura (Carey Mulligan), with whom he shares a passionless marriage,  their daughters and his racist father, Pappy. The Jackson family, led by tenant farmer Hap (Rob Morgan) and his wife Florence (Mary J. Blige), work the farm’s cotton fields and dream of owning their own block of land one day. As World War II begins, Jamie commissions to become an Army bomber pilot while the eldest Jackson boy, Ronsel (Jason Mitchell), enlists in the Infantry and commands a tank. While serving in Europe, Ronsel strikes up a romance with a white woman and enjoys relative freedom from racism.

Both families suffer the threat of poverty when the Jacksons’ mule has to be put down and Hap breaks his leg. Florence, who worked for the McAllans as a housekeeper, has to give up the job to help cover Hap’s work, and an unsympathetic Henry forces Hap to rent the McAllan’s mule, cutting his wages in half. Laura takes pity on the family and pays for Hap’s doctor.

When the war is won, both Ronsel and Jamie return home. The handsome and charming Jamie rekindles his attraction to Laura, but suffers from alcoholism, PTSD and the scorn of his father, who disparages air force bombing as “easy and anonymous killing”.  Ronsel, on the other hand, is defiant when Pappy demands that he use the back door of a general store instead of the front door, because he is black. Henry warns Hap and Florence that Ronsel’s fiery streak could provoke problems for all involved if he does not keep it to himself, and Ronsel is forced to apologize.

As usual, I will stop here to avoid spoiling the rest of the movie.  I thought Mudbound was interesting and had significant history.  As hard as racial movies are to watch, it’s important to know what happened.   This story has much more to offer so I recommend you take the time to watch it.  Mudbound is streaming on Netflix and is also available on DVD and Blu-ray.  Check it out.

 

NOTE: Rachel Morrison is the first woman ever nominated in the category of cinematography and Mary J. Blige became the first person to ever be nominated for an acting and song award during the same year.

[Mudbound is Oscar nominated for BEST: Supporting Actress, Original Song, Adapted Screenplay and Cinematography.]

 

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (2017) – My rating: 9/10

Beauty and the Beast is a musical romantic fantasy directed by Bill Condon from a screenplay written by Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos, and co-produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Mandeville Films. The film is a live-action adaptation of Disney’s 1991 animated film of the same name, itself an adaptation of Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s eighteenth-century fairy tale. While Beauty and the Beast is a timeless film and story is hasn’t lost it’s appeal.  Every time it’s remade, it gets better and better.  I’m so glad I decided to see it once again.

In Rococo-era France, a beautiful enchantress disguised as an old beggar woman (Hattie Morahan) arrives at a castle during a ball and offers the host, a cruel and selfish prince (Dan Stevens), a rose in return for shelter from the storm. When he refuses, she reveals her identity. To punish the prince for his selfishness, the enchantress transforms him into a beast and his servants into household objects, then erases the castle, the prince and his servants from the memories of their loved ones. She casts a spell on the rose and warns the prince that the curse will only be broken if he learns to love another, and earn their love in return, before the last petal falls.

Some years later, in the small town of Villeneuve, Belle (Emma Watson), the book-loving daughter of a music box maker and artist Maurice (Kevin Kline), dreams of adventure and brushes off advances from Gaston (Luke Evans), an arrogant former soldier. On his way to a convention and lost in the forest, Maurice seeks refuge in the Beast’s castle, but the Beast imprisons him for stealing a rose from his garden as a gift to Belle. When Maurice’s horse returns without him, Belle ventures out in search for him, and finds him locked in the castle dungeon. The Beast agrees to let her take Maurice’s place.

Belle befriends the castle’s servants, who invite her to a spectacular dinner. When she wanders into the forbidden west wing and finds the rose, the Beast scares her into the woods. She is ambushed by a pack of wolves, but the Beast rescues her, and is injured in the process. As Belle nurses his wounds, a friendship develops between them. The Beast shows Belle a gift from the enchantress, a book that transports readers wherever they want. Belle uses the book to visit her childhood home in Paris, where she discovers a plague doctor mask and realizes that she and her father were forced to leave when her mother (Zoe Rainey) succumbed to the plague.

While I’m sure everyone knows the story, I will not give any more of the story away in case you don’t know the story.  I urge everyone to see Beauty and the Beast.  It’s a delightful movie and well done.  Beauty and the Beast is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.  Check it out!

[Beauty and the Beast is Oscar nominated for Best Production Design and Best Costume Designs.]