Pan – I wish I knew what to make of this film. I’ve never really liked Peter Pan — neither the Disney version nor any other version. When I first saw the trailer for Pan, I immediately thought, “I’ll pass.” But some of the later trailers won me over and I found myself wanting to watch it. Then I watched it, and I feel as confused about my opinion of it as I think the filmmakers were about the film’s identity. On the one hand, it’s big, beautiful, and bold, presenting a visually eye-popping adventure that never really slows down. On the other hand, it has almost no heart to it, and it seems at times like it wants to be Moulin Rouge, at other times like it wants to be Star Wars. I will say that young Levi Miller is an absolute revelation as Peter Pan, but his performance is negated by Garrett Hedlund’s awful caricature of Captain Hook. It’s not a terrible movie, and there are parts that I liked, but it’s so uneven and all-over-the-place tonally speaking that I couldn’t really enjoy it as much as I’d hoped to.
Pawn Sacrifice – Tobey Maguire and Peter Sarsgaard star in this engaging biopic that focuses on chess great and controversial figure Bobby Fischer. Splitting time between his battle with Soviet chess champions and his personal demons, the film shines mostly due to the performances by Maguire and Sarsgaard. I’ve always found Bobby Fischer fascinating, and this movie doesn’t shy away from showing the darker sides of his persona. It might not be a movie for everyone, but even if you have no interest in chess it’s a pretty gripping watch.
War Room – I always feel a little bit like a fraud when I have to review faith-based movies. I’m not a religious person at all, so I don’t come to these films the same way the target audience probably does. But somebody has to review them, and a movie should be able to stand on its own merits, faith-based or not. So what I’ll say about War Room is that it’s a solidly crafted, well acted drama about a family in emotional crisis who turns to prayer to help them through a tough time in their lives. For me, it’s a bit too heavy handed, as I’ve seen some other faith-based movies that didn’t pound the prayer-talk in quite so heavily. That said, however, if you are looking for a good spiritual drama, you will probably enjoy this one very much.
12 Rounds 3: Lockdown – It’s funny that 12 Rounds 3 basically rips-off Die Hard, because in a way it’s aping what the Die Hard movies did as they progressed. The first two Die Hards saw Bruce Willis trapped in a single location while fighting the bad guys; then they threw that out the window with the last three. Likewise, 12 Rounds 1 & 2 focused on a sadistic bad guy sending a good guy through a series of challenges to try and save a loved one. Here? Nope. Now, it’s a good guy trapped in a building full of bad guys (also reminiscent of The Raid, Assault on Precinct 13, Dredd, etc.) and having to save the day. Is it good? Not really. Is it okay for a low-budget action flick starring a WWE personality (Dean Ambrose)? Sure.
Also available on Blu-ray & DVD this week:
- Nasty Baby – Kristen Wiig and Sebastian Silva star in this film that Silva also directs, about a trio of friends (two gay men and a straight woman) trying to have a baby. There’s a darker turn of events that comes later in the film, too, but I don’t want to spoil anything here. I’m not typically a fan of Silva’s filmmaking, and this movie sadly hasn’t done anything to change that opinion, although Wiig is good as usual.
- Nightmares – This little-seen anthology from the early 1980s comes to Blu-ray courtesy of Shout Factory’s excellent Scream Factory imprint. Starring Emilio Estevez, Lance Henriksen, Richard Masur, and Veronica Cartwright, the film fits four stories into its under-two-hour running times. We get killer rats, an escaped madman, a priest trying to save his sanity, and a video game challenge. The film isn’t particularly great, but it is a fun throwback horror flick, and I definitely enjoyed it more than I should have despite some cheesy/dated aspects of it.
- Dragon Blade – This Asian martial arts epic stars Jackie Chan — naturally — and also… John Cusack and Adrien Brody? Umm… okay. I generally find these films to get a bit tedious, and this one is no exception, especially with Chan toning down his usual goofy theatrics. John Cusack phones in his performance as he seems to do pretty much in every film he’s in nowadays, and the whole thing is just kind of an odd fit.
- The Brain That Wouldn’t Die – Scream Factory titles tend to focus heavily on the ’70s and ’80s, which makes this 1950s-era entry a welcome addition to their line-up. I’d be lying, however, if I didn’t say that I wish the film itself was a little bit better. That said, one of the best possible things about this disc is the fact that the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode where they lampoon this film is included as a bonus feature! Yay!
- The Nanny: Season 5 – How Fran Drescher ever got a show of her own is a mystery of unending proportions to me. The fact that said show was actually a hit is pretty impressive. Sure, she’s not terribly hard on the eyes, but that voice… it truly is like fingernails on a chalkboard. As for The Nanny itself, well, it’s actually not the worst show in the world. It’s a pretty typical sitcom; not terrible, not great. I will say that after watching enough episodes, it does become sort of like comfort food. It’s not overly exciting, but it goes down easy. If you liked the show when it was on the air, then this set is for you.
- Frontline: My Brother’s Bomber – This gripping documentary follows a man whose brother was killed in the Libyan bombing of an airliner that killed hundreds of people in the 1980s. Having difficulty coping with his loss,Ken Dornstein set out to find out who was responsible, using investigative journalism. It’s a moving and fascinating viewing experience.
- The Giant King – Although the cover art for this low-budget animated feature invokes memories of The Iron Giant, the film is really more like Dreamworks’ Robots movie crossed with The Fox and the Hound. Or something like that. It’s okay at best, and the semi-celebrity talent voicing the characters (Bella Thorne, Russell Peters) does the best they can with what they’ve got.
- Craft in America: Music – PBS’s popular show continues on DVD with Craft in America: Music, which focuses on “finely crafted hand-made instruments and the world-class artists who play them.” This go-around obviously focuses on music, giving it a different feel from previous entries, as these crafts actually do something besides just look nice.