This week on home video, we’ve got the latest sci-fi actioner from the Wachowskis, a second big screen appearance for a popular animated character, a rom-con(man)-drama with a pair of likable stars, and a winning inspirational sports drama starring Kevin Costner. Then, we’ve got some noteworthy TV and the usual roundup of smaller films. Read on for details:
If nothing else, the Wachowskis at least consistently strive to come up with their own material (Speed Racer notwithstanding), which is a practice, some would argue, that Hollywood could stand to see a bit more frequently. Jupiter Ascending, however, was not their best effort. Mila Kunis stars as a Chicago maid (named Jupiter, natch) who is unwittingly swept into an intergalactic power struggle when it’s discovered she possesses royal DNA. With the help of a mutant bounty hunter (Channing Tatum), Jupiter must figure out where she belongs and determine the fate of Earth. Critics were largely dissatisfied with Jupiter Ascending; they felt the film’s visuals were impressive but served a messy, meandering narrative that never managed to pick up steam. At 25 percent on the Tomatometer, this will probably not go down as a highlight on the Wachowkis’ resumes.
Nickelodeon’s insanely popular cartoon has run for nine seasons (with a tenth reportedly forthcoming) and spawned two feature films, the second of which opened in theaters earlier this year (coincidentally on the same weekend as Jupiter Ascending). What might surprise skeptics is that The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water was Certified Fresh at 78 percent. Blending the show’s traditional animation with some live action, the film follows SpongeBob (voiced by Tom Kenny) and pals as they venture onto dry land in pursuit of a pirate (played by Antonio Banderas) who has stolen the Krabby Patty recipe. It’s as colorful and wacky as fans of the show would expect, and it should please both young viewers and its surprisingly large adult audience alike.
Will Smith’s irrepressible charisma and Margot Robbie’s crackling screen presence should have set Focus on fire, and while the pair did manage to be appropriately charming, the film essentially registered a mild shrug from critics. Smith plays Nicky Spurgeon, a veteran con artist who takes fledgling grifter Jess Barrett (Robbie) under his wing. After a successful run in New Orleans and some intimate moments together, the two part ways, only to be reunited years later when Nicky is hired by Jess’s new boyfriend. Or is he? And who’s conning who? Focus doesn’t quite hit its stride until midway through the film, and when it does, you may find yourself questioning every action taken by every character, but critics felt that Smith and Robbie acquitted themselves well enough, which helped the movie to its 56 percent Tomatometer. Without the two of them, that score very likely could have been lower.
Say what you will about his late-career missteps, but Kevin Costner can still headline a solid sports movie. His latest excursion into the genre was McFarland USA, the true story of a California high school cross country coach who led a predominantly Mexican-American team to the state championship. Disgraced football coach Jim White (Costner) is forced to move his family from Idaho to McFarland, California, where he takes a position as a science and PE teacher. When he notices several of his students are speedy runners, he puts together a cross country team and helps lead them to success. McFarland, USA was directed by Niki Caro, whose best known work was the inspirational Whale Rider, and released by Disney, well known for its uplifting tales, so this is nothing audiences haven’t seen before. That said, critics felt this was a particularly well-crafted example of the genre and awarded it a Certified Fresh 79 percent on the Tomatometer.
Spring (2015) (88 percent), starring Lou Taylor Pucci in a Certified Fresh horror-drama about a young California man in trouble with the law who flees to Italy and meets a woman with a dark secret of her own.
Camp X-Ray (2014) (72 percent), starring Kristen Stewart in a drama about a young soldier who’s assigned to Guantanamo Bay and forms a bond with one of the prisoners.
Killing Jesus (2015) (57 percent), a fictional account of the life of Jesus Christ, based on the book of the same name by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard.
The Certified Fresh final season of FX’s drama Justified (100 percent), starring Timothy Olyphant as a US Marshall operating out of Kentucky, is available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Both the final season and a complete series set of NBC’s beloved sitcom Parks and Recreation (100 percent), starring Amy Poehler as a can-do public servant with an eccentric team working under her, is available on DVD.
The fourth season of TNT’s sci-fi thriller series Falling Skies (100 percent), starring Noah Wylie and Moon Bloodgood, is available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Season two of Sundance’s Certified Fresh drama Rectify (95 percent), starring Aden Young as a recently exonerated death row inmate attempting to readjust to normal life, is available on DVD.
Season four of ABC Family’s mystery-drama Pretty Little Liars (80 percent), based on the young adult novel series about four friends brought back together by ominous messages they’ve received a year after their leader disappeared, is available on DVD.