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Cinema Scoop  

New out on DVD/Blu-ray this week

New out on DVD/Blu-ray for Tuesday August 6.

     Oblivion

One of the few remaining drone repairmen assigned to Earth, its surface devastated after decades of war with the alien Scavs, discovers a crashed spacecraft with contents that bring into question everything he believed about the war, and may even put the fate of mankind in his hands.

The last original science fiction film that Tom Cruise starred in was Steven Spielberg's amazing, mind-bending thrill-ride Minority Report (War of the Worlds was a remake so that doesn't count). That film was thought provoking, action-packed and always engaging. Cruise's latest foray into the world of sci-fi, Oblivion, unfortunately is bereft of most of the things that made Minority Report such a fun film experience. Now don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that Oblivion is a bad movie, in fact it looks quite spectacular with some stunning visuals courtesy of cinematographer Claudio Miranda who won an Oscar earlier this year for his brilliant work on Life of Pi. The main problem I had with the film is that the plot is fairly uninspired and I never felt any real emotional investment in the characters or much of what was happening.

I found it really easy to figure out the so called plot twists in the film as well because they were so obviously telegraphed. Anyone who has ever watched a decent amount of science fiction will recognize the signs early on. Nothing about Oblivion mines new ground at all; it's just a hodge-podge of ideas culled from numerous other well known sci-fi films like The Omega Man, Moon, Wall-E and a few others I don't want to mention because it would give things away. Everything about this film in fact felt pretty familiar. It wouldn't even have been that big an issue if the film had more life and energy to it, but it just felt distant and detached. Like I said before, I never felt fully invested in the plight of these characters and for that I blame the director, Joseph Kosinski. I wasn't a fan of his previous effort, Tron: Legacy, for many of the same reasons. It was all a case of style over substance with no real emotional heart to it. Oblivion is a better film than Tron was, but it nevertheless still suffers from many of the same pitfalls.

Overall, I felt that the plot took too long to get where it wanted to go and once it arrived at its destination it seriously lacked the wow factor. Despite some exceptional camera work and visual panache, Oblivion's central themes and ideas collapse upon closer scrutiny and it doesn't offer the most satisfying film going experience that science fiction fans truly deserve.

Oblivion co-stars Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko, Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.

     The Place Beyond the Pines

Ryan Gosling plays Luke, a motorcycle stunt rider who works at a traveling carnival. One night he sees Romina (Eva Mendes), a woman he had a fling with over a year ago, and he finds out that she gave birth to his son. Bound by a feeling of obligation, Luke decides to quit his job and stay in the small town of Schnectady, New York where Romina lives with her current boyfriend. Desperately wanting to provide for his son, Luke takes a part time job working as a mechanic for a low life named Robin (Ben Mendelsohn). Robin convinces Luke that if he wants to score some big cash quickly that he should start robbing banks and then use his skill as a stunt racer to get away easily. When things don't go quite as planned, Luke is pursued by the cops which leads to a life altering confrontation with officer Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper). From this point on the story shifts its focus to officer Cross and how he deals with the aftermath of this encounter as well as his learning of some serious corruption that is going on in the police department led by a dirty cop (Ray Liotta). It's kind of difficult to breakdown the rest of what happens as that would involve heavy spoilers, but I'll just say that the film ends up spanning over fifteen years of these people's lives.

It has been about three years now since director Derek Cianfrance made a bit of a splash with his raw, emotional, award winning film Blue Valentine. He showcased an ability to write his characters with an abundance of depth as they exhibited much pain and heartache. Once again he re-teams with star Ryan Gosling for this sprawling character driven drama that allows him to expand even further on the themes of family, loss and grief. Despite its meaty 140 minute long runtime, The Place Beyond the Pines earns every single minute by consistently being a compelling and powerful film about the messy and fractured relationships between parents and children and the often tragic choices adults make that affect their kids for a lifetime.

One of the main reasons The Place Beyond the Pines is such a good film are the exceptional performances given by the talented cast. Ryan Gosling is simply electric and riveting in this. His performance reminded me in many ways of his amazing turn in the brilliant film Drive. I swear that there are equal parts James Dean, Marlon Brando and Steve McQueen in this guy. Bradley Cooper follows up his Oscar nominated role in Silver Linings Playbook with another stellar performance that is not as showy but equally as good. He is a slightly flawed, but ultimately good man who just wants to do right by his family. Another standout is Dane DeHaan (Chronicle, Lawless), who plays a teenager that has a significant role in the film's final act. He reminds me of a young Leonardo DiCaprio, and his display of angst and inner turmoil gives me faith that his upcoming role as Harry Osborn in the Amazing Spider-Man sequel will be a homerun.

It may appear to some that director Cianfrance is trying to cram in too much plot into the film in order to make it seem epic in scope, but I feel that the deliberate (not slow) pacing really allows the story to breathe and it gives the audience a chance to fully engage with these characters and become emotionally invested. I was never bored for a minute and I didn't feel like anything was excessive or overdone. There was a point in the story, however, where it totally would have lost me had it taken a certain path. I was worried for a bit, but thankfully he didn't take it in that direction, otherwise it would have become very maudlin and taken away from the resonance of the film. Sorry to be so vague about the details but I don't want to include spoilers here.

The bottom line is that I highly recommend that people seek out The Place Beyond the Pines as it is a powerhouse drama that deals with morality and the consequences of certain choices that people make. It is easily among the best films of 2013.

     The Sapphires

Inspired by a true story, the film follows four vivacious, young and talented Australian Aboriginal girls from a remote mission as they learn about love, friendship and war when their all girl group The Sapphires entertains the U.S. troops in Vietnam in 1968. The four girls are discovered by Dave Lovelace (Chris O'Dowd), a good-humoured talent scout with a kind heart, very little rhythm but a great knowledge of soul music. As their manager, Dave books the sisters their first true gig giving them their first taste of stardom, and travels them to Vietnam to sing for the American troops.

This fun and highly entertaining little film just bristles with energy thanks in large part to the wonderful musical performances throughout which feature some great hits from the Motown era. The Sapphires is a really nice, lighthearted film that is sure to be a crowd pleaser and it may remind many of films such as The Commitments and Dreamgirls.

Hey, it may not be the most original story around, but it sure is pleasant and enjoyable to sit through. It contains really solid performances and great music that kept my toes tapping, so what's not to like? 

The Sapphires is one of those little gems that you definitely need to keep an eye out for. I was thoroughly entertained by this charming true story.

     West of Memphis

From director Amy Berg (the incredibly heartwrenching Deliver Us From Evil), in collaboration with filmmakers Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh comes West of Memphis, a powerful examination of a catastrophic failure of justice in Arkansas. This documentary tells the hitherto unknown story behind an extraordinary and desperate fight to bring the truth to light. Told and made by those who lived it, Berg's unprecedented access to the inner workings of the defense, allows the film to show the investigation, research and appeals process in a way that has never been seen before; revealing shocking and disturbing new information about a case that still haunts the American South.

Many of you may be familiar with this case as it was the subject of a three part HBO documentary called Paradise Lost. It tells the story of the West Memphis 3, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr., who were falsely imprisoned for 18 years for the brutal murders of three young boys in Arkansas. The case made national headlines and even prompted celebrities such as Eddie Vedder, Johnny Depp, Natalie Maines and Henry Rollins to publicly plead for justice and aid in their release from prison. 

While it certainly covers a lot of the same ground that Paradise Lost did, this exceptional film delves even deeper into the case and really gives us the full picture. You'll walk away from this film thoroughly convinced who the real culprit is who perpetrated these heinous crimes and you'll likely be angered by the incredible failings of the Arkansas legal system.

West of Memphis is a tremendous documentary that will appeal to anyone who has an interest in the inner workings of the criminal justice system and all of the inadequacies it displays when prosecutorial misconduct and political corruption are afoot. This is scary and gut-wrenching stuff.

Highly recommended!

     To the Wonder

To the Wonder tells the story of Marina (Olga Kurylenko) and Neil (Ben Affleck), who meet in France and move to Oklahoma to start a life together, where problems soon arise. While Marina makes the acquaintance of a priest and fellow exile (Javier Bardem), who is struggling with his vocation, Neil renews a relationship with a childhood sweetheart, Jane (Rachel McAdams).

In the span of 40 years, enigmatic filmmaker Terrence Malick has only made 6 films. Often considered pretentious and artsy-fartsy, To the Wonder is Malick's latest  languid, lugubrious lament on love, loss and life. And if that isn't enough L words for you - how about lame! This movie literally bored me to death. I get that it's supposed to be poetic and impressionistic, but it just comes across as self-indulgent and obtuse. It's just a bunch of whispering and it has no discernible narrative to it whatsoever. Sure it has some pretty imagery shot by Malick but when I watch a movie I want a story I can engage with. To the Wonder fails miserably in this regard.

The only impression this film left on me was one of sheer boredom. Pass!

Also out this week is the coming of age drama Ginger & Rosa starring Elle Fanning and Alice Englert, the adaptation of Jack Kerouac's On the Road starring Kristen Stewart, Garrett Hedlund and Sam Riley, the thriller Magic Magic with Michael Cera, Juno Temple and Emily Browning, the 2nd season of the Cinemax series Strike Back, the 2nd season of the musical show Smash, and the complete series of the USA network show Political Animals featuring Sigourney Weaver.

New out on DVD/Blu-ray is brought to you by Leo's Videos, 2680 Pandosy St. (250) 861-8437



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About the Author

Just to give you a little background on my qualifications, I've been a film buff my whole life and I enjoy all different genres.

I especially have a passion for classic cinema.

I spent most of the past 17 years working for Rogers Video, so not only have I seen an immense amount of movies, but I've recommended many films to people over the years.



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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