'Gifted,' 'Boss Baby' on Blu-ray, DVD and other video platforms

Posted August 2

Rachel Flowers, who has been blind since birth, is a remarkable musical prodigy whose life is profiled in the documentary "Hearing Is Believing," now on DVD and various online streaming sites. (Deseret Photo)

Quite a few new movies have landed on video platforms this week, led by “Gifted” and “The Boss Baby.”

“Gifted” (Fox, 2017, PG-13, deleted scenes, featurettes, photo gallery). Intellectually gifted 7-year-old Mary (wonderfully played by the charming Mckenna Grace) lives with her down-to-earth Uncle Frank (Chris Evans), who is trying to give her a normal childhood, as per the wishes of her late mother. But soon Frank’s estranged mother, Mary’s wealthy grandmother (Lindsay Duncan), pulls them into a custody battle, claiming the girl needs special tutoring to claim her place in the world as an important math prodigy.

The story here isn’t particularly original but as directed by Marc Webb, of “(500) Days of Summer” fame, and with an excellent cast (including Jenny Slate, Octavia Spencer and Glenn Plummer), it has more humor and heart than most films that have played theatrically this year, and as such gets a strong recommendation from this corner. (Although parents should be advised that the PG-13 rating is deserved for language and implied sex.)

“The Boss Baby” (Dreamworks, 2017, PG, deleted scenes, featurettes, art gallery, short cartoon). This is an animated fantasy about a 7-year-old boy named Tim (voiced by Miles Bakshi) who’s very happy with his family until a new baby arrives on the scene and steals away his parents’ attention. But it’s not just sibling rivalry: The baby wears a suit, carries a briefcase, talks like an adult — a pushy adult — and has a secret agenda (hilariously voiced by Alec Baldwin).

Eventually, Tim uncovers the truth and goes on an adventure that reveals where babies come from. It’s not what you think. It's funny and fast-paced for a while, but the convoluted plot runs out of steam long before the final act, and, as with so many cartoons these days, too often settles for cheesy, vulgar bodily function gags. Other voice actors include Tobey Maguire, Steve Buscemi, Jimmy Kimmel and Lisa Kudrow.

“Hearing Is Believing” (Gravitas Ventures, 2017, not rated/probable G, featurettes, trailer). Blind-since-birth musical prodigy (and YouTube celebrity) Rachel Flowers is the subject of this earnest, engaging and uplifting documentary, demonstrating her multi-instrument proficiency, especially on keyboards and flute — and at one point she plays both at the same time! Her back story is interesting but the highlights are the many musical sequences, particularly a live performance onstage with Dweezil Zappa. Don’t miss the bonus feature home videos of 10-year-old Rachel with Ray Charles.

“Going in Style” (Warner, 2017, PG-13, deleted scenes, audio commentary). Zach Braff directed this disappointing remake of the excellent 1979 comedy-drama about three elderly men who decide to rob a bank, but have no idea how to go about it. Despite a stellar cast (Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Alan Arkin, Ann-Margret, Matt Dillon, Christopher Lloyd), the film flounders with unfunny gags, a feeble attempt at social commentary and a surprising emphasis on sex and drugs. This one can’t hold a candle to the original.

“Cop and a Half: New Recruit” (Universal, 2017, PG, featurettes). Lou Diamond Phillips is a plain-clothes detective on a stakeout when it’s interrupted by a 12-year-old girl (Lulu Wilson) who dreams of being a cop and demonstrates tech-savvy smarts. So, of course, the police captain makes her Phillips’ new pint-sized partner to help capture a serial prankster who's been embarrassing local cops. A 24-years-later sequel — or remake or reboot or whatever it is — to the Burt Reynolds comedy “Cop & ½” and, as you might suspect, it’s strictly for kids.

“Pure Country: Pure Heart” (Warner, 2017, PG, featurettes, music video). Two sisters (Kaitlyn Bausch, Cozi Zuehlsdorff) dream of country music stardom in Nashville while on a search for information about their late father, a Marine who had his own musical dreams before losing his life in Iraq. Willie Nelson appears as himself. This is the third in the “Pure Country” franchise of films about country singers, but which have no narrative connections. (The DVD is a Wal-Mart exclusive for the next couple of months.)

“Colossal” (Universal, 2017, R for language, deleted scene). This is one really weird monster movie comedy-drama, as an unemployed, alcoholic writer (Anne Hathaway), while visiting her Midwest hometown, discovers that she is somehow manifesting and manipulating a reptilian monster in Seoul, South Korea. It has some interesting moments, but at nearly two hours it’s way too long for its metaphorical, one-joke skit. Jason Sudeikis, Dan Stevens and Tim Blake Nelson co-star.

“Red Leaves” (IndiePix, 2017, not rated/probable R for some language, in Amharic and Hebrew with English subtitles, trailer). A 74-year-old Ethiopian widower (Debebe Eshetu) living in Israel, where he immigrated some 28 years earlier, gathers his adult children and informs them that he plans to live out his life with each of them in their homes. But his rigid adherence to Ethiopian culture conflicts with their 21st-century values, resulting in his feeling more alienated than ever. This is a heartfelt cinéma vérité character study anchored by Eshetu’s sturdy performance.

“1944” (Film Movement, 2017, not rated/probable R for violence, in Estonian with English subtitles, animated short film). After being seized by Soviet Russia, Estonia (in the Baltic region of Northern Europe) is occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II. As a result, some 50,000 young Estonian men are conscripted to fight for Russia and 70,000 more for Germany, essentially throwing the small country into civil war. As this Estonian film chronicles those battles, it focuses on a high-ranking officer from each side. (The DVD is a Wal-Mart exclusive for the next couple of months.)

“The Lovers” (Lionsgate, 2017; R for graphic sex, nudity, language; audio commentary, featurettes). Debra Winger and Tracy Letts are very good as a longtime married couple that has drifted apart, each one involved in an extramarital affair and planning to ask the other for a divorce. Then they suddenly find themselves attracted to each other again — which sends their lovers into fits of jealousy. The film is low-key and quietly amusing until it sinks into melodrama and wraps up with a calculated anti-rom-com ending.

“Sleight” (Universal, 2017; R for language, drugs, violence). An adept street magician and pickpocket (Jacob Latimore) turns to drug dealing when he and his young sister are orphaned. But, of course, things eventually go sideways, leading to violence, a heist that goes wrong and the eventual kidnapping of his sister. Dulé Hill co-stars.

“The Ottoman Lieutenant” (Universal, 2017, R for violence). Just before the outbreak of World War I, two Americans, a doctor (Josh Hartnett) and a headstrong woman (Hera Hilmar), travel on a medical mission to the Ottoman Empire (Turkey). But her loyalty to the doctor and the mission’s founder (Ben Kingsley) is soon tested by her unexpected love affair with a lieutenant (Michiel Huisman) in the Ottoman Imperial Army.

“S.W.A.T.: Under Seige” (Sony, 2017, R for violence and language). When a joint DEA/SWAT operation goes haywire, a mysterious prisoner is taken into custody, which leads to a wave of assault teams attempting to recover him. Sam Jaeger, Adrianne Palicki and Michael Jai White star in this second straight-to-video follow-up to the 2003 “S.W.A.T” theatrical film, which was based on the 1975 TV series.

“Bender” (Candy Factory, 2017, not rated/probable R for violence). A 19th-century Kansas doctor stumbles upon a remote prairie home where he is violently dispatched by a family of serial killers. The speculative narrative, which implies incest and cannibalism, is based on the real-life “Bloody Benders,” but the film moves at a snail’s pace, with a penchant for extreme closeups. Linda Purl and Bruce Davison have small supporting roles.

“Nocturne” (Monarch, 2017, not rated/probable R for violence, sex, nudity, language). Friends at a small graduation party use a makeshift Ouija Board to summon Evil and are shocked when Evil shows up. This combination of a raunchy teen party flick and routine horror yarn is run of the mill, made on a very small budget with unknown actors.

Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." He also writes at www.hicksflicks.com and can be contacted at hicks@deseretnews.com.


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