The first of the Star Wars stand-alone films. Since almost everyone in the known universe has seen "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" (except for the Trumps and the Putins, who were too busy divvying up the world), there's no need to replicate the entire stoyline here, save to say that -- unlike "Star Wars 1 & II & III" --- this is a true prequel, picking up matters just before the beginning of the original 1977 "Star Wars" (now dubbed "A New Hope"). The Empire is close to finishing the planet-destroying Death Star and a ragtag assemblage of Rebels (including the daughter of the Death Star's designer, who has built a fatal flaw into the heart of the weapon) are dispatched to steal the plans and deliver them to the Rebel Alliance. Unlike "Star Wars VII," this adventure has a great hard edge, with more fighting, more deaths, more special effects and more action and -- thankfully, more anger and vengeance. The leads, Felicity Jones and Diego Luna (at the risk of being politically incorrect, finally we have a Star Wars hero and a heroine that we would like to sleep with) are no-nonsense fighters; the supporting rebels are nasty but likable killers (Forest Whitaker, Jiang Wen and Donnie Yen), and the Empire villains are despicable. There's guest appearances (via CGI) of a couple Star Wars stalwarts, and Darth Vader shows up to finally strut himself as a true killing machine. Unlike so many other modern comic book or sci-fi "epics" that rely on FX instead of story to take the viewer from beginning to end (all those "Iron Man," "Avengers" and "Transformer" films that run together so you can't tell one sequel from another), this one boasts some intelligence in its plot. And if you have a decent surround system, you'll be pleased with the sound here; if you like bonus features with your DVD or Blu-ray, this release will keep you busy for hours: there's a crazy amount of behind-the scenes extras. Vitals: Director: Gareth
Edwards. Stars: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Jiang Wen,
Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Forest Whitaker.
2016, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 133 min., Science Fiction, Box
office gross: $529.020 million, Disney.Extras:
A Rogue Idea – Hear how ILM’s John Knoll came up with the movie’s concept – and why it’s the right film to launch the Star Wars stand-alone films.
Jyn: The Rebel – Get to know Rogue One’s defiant, resourceful survivor, and hear what it was like for Felicity Jones to bring her to life onscreen.
Cassian: The Spy – Diego Luna shares insights into his complex, driven character, who becomes a hero through selflessness, perseverance and passion.
K-2SO: The Droid – Explore the development of this reprogrammed Imperial droid, from initial pitch and character design through Alan Tudyk’s performance.
Baze & Chirrut: Guardians of the Whills – Go deeper into the relationship between these two very different characters, with Chinese superstars Jiang Wen and Donnie Yen.
Bodhi & Saw: The Pilot & The Revolutionary – Forest Whitaker and Riz Ahmed reflect on Saw Gerrera, the broken Rebel leader, and Bodhi Rook, the Imperial pilot who defects.
The Empire – Meet a dangerous new Imperial adversary ... and cross paths once more with the most iconic villain of all time.
Visions of Hope: The Look of “Rogue One” – The filmmakers describe the challenges and thrills of developing a bold new look for the movie that can fit within the world of the original trilogy.
The Princess & The Governor – See what it took to bring the vibrant young princess of “Star Wars: A New Hope” – as well as one of her most memorable foes– – back to the screen.
Epilogue: The Story Continues – Filmmakers and cast celebrate Rogue One’s premiere and look forward into the future, to the Star Wars stories yet to be told.
Rogue Connections – Uncover Easter eggs and film facts hidden throughout the movie that connect “Rogue One” to the Star Wars universe.
Office Christmas Party
When an overbearing CEO (Jennifer Aniston) decides to close her hard-partying brother’s failing branch, he (T.J. Miller) and his fired up co-workers (Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, Kate McKinnon) decide to throw an epic office party to land a big shot client and save everyone’s jobs. Fueled by booze and bad decisions, things quickly spiral out of control in one of the craziest nights of their lives.
Vitals: Director: Josh Gordon & Will Speck. Stars: Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, T.J. Miller, Jennifer Aniston, Kate McKinnon, Courtney B. Vance, Jillian Bell, Rob Corddry.
2016, CC, MPAA rating: R, 105 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $82.329 million, Paramount.Blu-ray extras: Unrated version, commentary by directors Josh Gordon & Will Speck, "Throwing an Office Christmas Party," outtakes, deleted and extended scenes.
Paterson (Adam Driver) is a bus driver in the city of Paterson, New Jersey -- they share the name. Every day, he adheres to a simple routine of driving his daily route, where he observes the city as it drifts across his windshield, overhearing fragments of the conversations that swirl around him. He writes poetry into a notebook, walks his dog, and has exactly one beer at a local bar. By contrast, his loving wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), is a dreamer who is constantly inspired by new ideas and ambitious projects, all the while championing Paterson's gift for poetry. The history and energy of the City of Paterson is a felt presence in the film and its simple structure unfolds over the course of a single week, and the quiet triumphs and defeats of daily life are observed, along with the poetry that's evident in its smallest details.
Vitals: Director: Jim Jarmusch. Stars: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Helen-Jean Arthur, Owen Asztalos, Kacey Cockett.
2016, CC, MPAA rating: R, 113 min., Comedy Drama. Box office gross: $.824
The film, based on a true story, follows five-year-old Indian boy Saroo (Sunny Pawar) who gets lost on a Calcutta train traveling away from his home and family. Frightened and bewildered, he ends up thousands of miles away, in chaotic Kolkata. Somehow he survives living on the streets, escaping all sorts of terrors and close calls in the process, before ending up in an orphanage that is itself not exactly a safe haven. Eventually Saroo is adopted by an Australian couple (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham), and finds love and security as he grows up in Hobart. As an adult, not wanting to hurt his adoptive parents’ feelings, Saroo (Dev Patel) suppresses his past, his emotional need for reunification and his hope of ever finding his lost mother and brother. But a chance meeting with some fellow Indians reawakens his buried yearning. Armed with only a handful of memories, his unwavering determination, and a revolutionary technology known as Google Earth, Saroo sets out to find his lost family and finally return to his first home.
Vitals: Director: Garth Davis. Stars: Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, David Wenham, Nicole Kidman, Abhishek Bharate, Sunny Pawar.
2016, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 119 min., Drama, Box office gross: $25.852 million, The Weinstein Co./Anchor Bay.Extras: Deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes gallery, “Never Give Up” official lyric video performed by Sia.
In the early 1960s, as the United States raced against Russia to put a man in space, NASA found untapped talent in a group of African-American female mathematicians that served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in U.S. history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit. Based on the unbelievably true life stories of three of these women, known as "human computers," the film follows them as they quickly rise up the ranks of NASA alongside many of history's greatest minds specifically tasked with calculating Glenn's trip into space, and guaranteeing his safe return. The visionary trio, Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), had to fight rampnat sexism and racism and to cross all gender, race, and professional lines to succeed. Their brilliance and desire to dream big, beyond anything ever accomplished before by the human race, firmly cemented them in U.S. history as true American heroes.
Vitals: Director: Theodore
Melfi. Stars: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin
Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge, Glen
2016, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 127 min., Drama, Box office gross: $153.291
million, Fox.Extras: "It All Adds Up – The Making of Hidden Figures" five-part featurette: "No Limits – The Life of Katherine Johnson," "The Right People for the Job," "Recreating an Era – The Look of Hidden Figures," "A Spiritual Journey – The Music of Hidden Figures" and "Moving the Decimal – Honoring Katherine Johnson": deleted scenes; "Hidden Figures: Filming in Georgia": audio commentary by Theodore Melfi and Taraji P. Henson; gallery.
The Bye Bye Man
People commit unthinkable acts every day. Time and again, we grapple
to understand what drives a person to do such terrible things. But
what if all of the questions we’re asking are wrong? What if the
source of all evil is not a matter of what … but who? When three
college students move into an old house off campus, they unwittingly
unleash a supernatural entity known as The Bye Bye Man, who comes to
prey upon them once they discover his name. The friends must try to
save each other, all the while keeping The Bye Bye Man's existence a
secret to save others from the same deadly fate. But once the Bye Bye
Man gets inside your head, he takes control: it's a psychological force of evil who grows in power every time you think of his name or say it out loud. Unrated version.
Vitals: Director: Stacy
Title. Stars: Douglas Smith, Lucien Laviscount, Cressida Bonas,
Douglas Jones, Carrie-Anne Moss, Faye Dunaway.
2017, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 96 min., Horror Thriller, Box office
Winfried rarely sees his daughter Ines since she left for a high-powered corporate job. So when he drops by to visit, the two quickly find themselves at odds as his quirky antics clash with her slick lifestyle. Determined to be part of her world, Winfried reappears as alter ego “Toni Erdmann,” an outrageous life coach who turns his daughter’s career plans upside-down. In the course of all the madness, the two discover that maybe they have more in common than they imagined. Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film; Independent Spirit Award Winner, Best International Film and winner of five European Film Awards, including Best Picture. Vitals: Director: Maren Ade. Stars: Sandra Hüller, Peter Simonischek.
2016 -- Germany, CC, MPAA rating: R, 162 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $1.165 million, Sony.Extras: AFI Fest Q&A with actors Peter Simonischek, Sandra Hüller and Ingrid Bisu and producer Janine Jackowski; commentary with Simonischek, Hüller and Jackowski.
While the mental divisions of those with dissociative identity disorder have long fascinated and eluded science, it is believed that some can also manifest unique physical attributes for each personality, a cognitive and physiological prism within a single being. Though Kevin (James McAvoy) has evidenced 23 personalities to his trusted psychiatrist, Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley), there remains one still submerged who is set to materialize and dominate all the others. Compelled to abduct three teenage girls led by the willful, observant Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), Kevin wages a war for survival among all of those contained within him -- as well as everyone around him -- as the walls between his compartments shatter apart.
Vitals: Director: M. Night Shyamalan. Stars: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Kim Director, Jessica Sula, Brad William Henke, Betty Buckley.
2017, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 116 min., Horror, Box office gross: $131.089
million, Universal.Extras: Alternate ending, deleted scenes,
"The Making of Split" behind-the-scenes featurette, "The Many Faces of James McAvoy,"
"The Filmmaker’s Eye: M. Night Shyamalan" with producers, cast, and crew discussing how Night’s process gives them the freedom to execute their roles to the fullest.
The true story of how Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), a salesman from Illinois, met Mac and Dick McDonald, who were running a burger operation in 1950s Southern California. Kroc was impressed by the brothers' speedy system of making the food and saw franchise potential. He maneuvered himself into a position to be able to pull the company from the brothers and create a billion-dollar empire.
Vitals: Director: John Lee Hancock. Stars: Michael Keaton, Linda Cardellini, Patrick Wilson, Nick Offerman, Laura Dern, John Carroll Lynch, B.J. Novak.
2017, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 115 min., Drama, Box office gross: $11.205
million, The Weinstein Co./Anchor BayExtras: “The Story Behind the Story” featurette, “Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc” featurette, “The McDonald Brothers” featurette, "The Production Design” featurette, "Building McDonald’s: Time Lapse Video,” press conference with filmmakers and cast.
Undercover police officer Vincent Downs (Jamie Foxx) thrives in the high stakes web of corrupt cops and the mob-controlled casino underground of Las Vegas. But when a heist goes wrong and a crew of homicidal gangsters kidnaps Downs’ teenage son, he must evade an internal affairs investigation, rescue his son, and bring the kidnappers to justice all in one sleepless, pulse-pounding night.
Vitals: Director: Baran bo Odar. Stars: Jamie Foxx, Michelle Monaghan, Dermot Mulroney, David Harbour, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Gabrielle Union, Scoot McNairy.
2017, CC, MPAA rating: R, 96 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $20.133 million, Universal.Extras: Deleted scenes, "One Long Night: The Making of Sleepless."
La La Land
"La La Land" was the exhilarating widescreen musical that set hearts thumping in the latter part of 2016, just in time to ameliorate (somewhat) a presidential election that tore the country apart. From the original and creative opening dance number staged on a freeway overpass during Los Angeles rush hour traffic to the alternative, dreamlike film ending, this original, post-modern musical was a breath of fresh air with gorgeous visuals, flashy dance sequences, catchy songs, and jazzy score -- not to mention terrific performances by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling (who woulda thought he could be so cute AND sing and dance). The storyline -- kind of "New York, New York" meets "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" -- follows Stone and Gosling as Mia, an aspiring actress, and Sebastian, a dedicated jazz musician, who are struggling to make ends meet in a city known for crushing hopes and breaking hearts; it's an uplifting movie about everyday life that explores the joy and pain of pursuing your dreams. Winner of six Academy Awards (Stone won for Best Actress) and a record-breaking seven Golden Globes.
Vitals: Director: Damien
Chazelle. Stars: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie
DeWitt, J.K. Simmons.
2016, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 128 min., Musical, Box office gross: $148.644
million, Lionsgate.Extras: Audio Commentary
with writer-director Damien Chazelle and composer Justin Hurwitz;
“Another Day of Sun: They Closed Down a Freeway” featurette; “La La
Land's Love Letter To Los Angeles” featurette; “Ryan and Emma: Third
Time’s the Charm” featurette; song selection. Blu-ray adds “La La Land's Great Party”
featurette; "Ryan Gosling: Piano Student” featurette; "Before
Whiplash: Damien Chazelle's Passion Project” featurette; "The Music of
La La Land” featurette; “John Legend's Acting Debut” featurette; “The
Look of Love: Designing La La Land” featurette; “Epilogue: The Romance
of the Dream” featurette that explores the unusual ending to the film;
"Damien & Justin Sing: The Demo."
Underworld: Blood Wars
The next installment in the "Underworld" franchise (the fifth) follows Vampire death dealer Selene (Kate Beckinsale) as she fends off brutal attacks from both the Lycan clan and the Vampire faction that betrayed her. With her only allies, David (Theo James) and his father Thomas (Charles Dance), she must stop the eternal war between Lycans and Vampires, even if it means she has to make the ultimate sacrifice.
Vitals: Director: Anna Foerster. Stars: Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Lara Pulver, Alicia Vela-Bailey, Charles Dance, Tobias Menzies.
2017, CC, MPAA rating: R, 91 min., Horror Thriller, Box office gross: $30.317
million, Sony.Extras: Two featurettes: "Old and New Blood" and "The Evil Evolved." Blu-ray adds two additional featurettes: "The Evolution of Selene" and "Building a Blood War."
All DVDs are screened on a reference system consisting of a
Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray Disc Player w/SACD & DVD-Audio, a
Rotel RSX-972 Surround Sound Receiver, and Phase Technology 1.1 (front), 33.1 (center),
and 50 (rear) speakers and Power 10 subwoofer.