An Oscar contender and innovative animated production top the list of new DVD releases this week.
“Hell or High Water”: 4 out of 4 stars. Modern-day twist on the Robin Hood approach to economic parity rides superb writing, Oscar-caliber performances and a serious social message to such grandeur as to make it one of the best pictures of 2016. Although the theme could have been preachy, it manages to make a monumental statement with quiet reserve and compassion.
It’s a powerful story about hope and despair, success and failure, desperation and determination. And yet director David Mackenzie never forces any of the sides, but just presents the story to the viewer to consume, debate and then decide.
The result is a film that should not be overlooked by Academy Award voters.
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“Kubo and the Two Strings”: 3 stars. The latest visual feast served up by the film production company Laika is a blend of action and emotion set in a fantasy world of the Far East. Told through stunning backdrops and fanciful stop-motion animation, the film looks at Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson), a boy who lives a spartan life surviving on the stories he tells to those living in a small seaside town.
Laika has not completely emerged from the shadow of the current giants of animation, but each film from the company shows that its own shadow growing and, if this pace continues, it will take its place among the giants.
“War Dogs”: 2 stars. The film is a big change for director Todd Phillips, whose past work has featured over-the-top humor: “Old School,” “The Hangover, “ “Due Date” and two “Hangover” sequels. He tries to add touches of humor to “War Dogs,” but the jokes end up shooting blanks.
None of these problems completely sinks “War Dogs,” but they don’t help. At least Phillips didn’t feel compelled to add a moral lesson to the mix. The audience can do that for him.
“War Dogs” suffers the same problems as other movies about arms dealers: No matter how good the writing or performances, there is a dark cloud hanging overhead. Marginal writing and so-so performances mean movies like “War Dogs” never provide enough bang for the buck.
ALSO NEW ON DVD
“Mechanic: Resurrection”: Bishop must come out of retirement when his true love is taken.
“Hands of Stone”: Biopic about Panamanian boxing champion Roberto Duran.
“Nestor”: Man awakens in a strange place and must fight for survival.
“To Live and Die in L.A.”: The 1985 film starring William Petersen is available on Blu-ray.
“Moonlight Drawn by Clouds”: Love story follows a prestigious dating-advice guru who disguises herself as a man to help others find love.
“Mystery Science Theater 3000: Vol. XXXVII”: Includes “The Human Duplicators” and “Escape 2000.”
“Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World”: Werner Herzog presents a look at the birth of the internet.
“14 Minutes From Earth”: Alan Eustace makes a leap from 135,000 feet.
“The Childhood of a Leader”: Young man living in France during World War masterfully manipulates those around him.
“Poldark Season 2”: Ross Poldark fights for justice in his native Cornwall.
“Rabid”: David Cronenberg’s film starring adult film star Marilyn Chambers.
“Chicken People”: Documentary on the efforts to raise the perfect chicken.
“Texas Rising/Sons of Liberty”: Double feature of History Channel productions.
“The Land”: Inner-city tale set against Cleveland’s hip-hop underground.
“The Hollywood Shorties”: World’s smallest professional basketball team finds itself leader of a movement to bring little people into the public.
AVAILABLE ON DIGITAL HD
“The Wild Life”: Adventures of Robinson Crusoe and a group of quirky animals.