Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) never knew his famous father, world heavyweight champion Apollo Creed, who died before he was born. Still, there's no denying that boxing is in his blood, so Adonis heads to Philadelphia, the site of Apollo Creed's legendary match with a tough upstart named Rocky Balboa. Once in the City of Brotherly Love, Adonis tracks Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) down and asks him to be his trainer. Despite his insistence that he is out of the fight game for good, Rocky sees in Adonis the strength and determination he had known in Apollo -- the fierce rival who became his closest friend. Agreeing to take him on, Rocky trains the young fighter, even as the former champ is battling an opponent more deadly than any he faced in the ring. With Rocky in his corner, it isn't long before Adonis gets his own shot at the title ... but can he develop not only the drive but also the heart of a true fighter, in time to get into the ring?
Vitals: Director: Ryan Coogler. Stars: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Anthony Bellew.
2015, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 133 min., Drama, Box office gross: $108.326 million, MGM/Warner.Extras: "Know the Past, Own the Future" featurette, "Becoming Adonis," deleted scenes.
The Danish Girl
Alicia Vikander and Eddie Redmayne give tour-de-force performances in this quietly enthralling love story inspired by the lives of married artists Einar and Gerda Wegener. Set in 1920s Copenhagen and Paris, the film follows the transformation of successful landscape artist Einar into Lili Elbe -- a woman inside him that he has had difficulty keeping down and who comes to the fore (in the film, at least), after he poses in female garb for Gerda, a struggling portrait artist. Their strong and loving marriage is shaken, but not destroyed, and Gerda supports Einar/Lili as he becomes a transgendered woman -- and undergoes one of the first male to female gender change operations. Redmayne's transformation is amazing and Vikander, at once soft and strong, standing up for her feelings yet not denying those of her "husband," is stunning -- she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. The film is impeccably directed with a sure hand by Tom Hooper, who gave us "The King's Speech" (2010) and "Les Miserables" (2012).
Vitals: Director: Tom Hooper. Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Ben Whishaw, Sebastian Koch, Amber Heard, Matthias Schoenaerts.
2015, CC, MPAA rating: R, 120 min., Drama, Box office gross: $170.659 million, Universal.Extras: "The Making of The Danish Girl."
Tells the extraordinary story of Jack (Jacob Tremblay in a breakout performance), a spirited 5-year-old who is looked after by his loving and devoted Ma (Brie Larson). Like any good mother, Ma dedicates herself to keeping Jack happy and safe, nurturing him with warmth and
love and doing typical things like playing games and telling stories. Their life, however, is anything but typical -- they're trapped -- confined to a windowless, 10-by-10-foot space, which Ma has euphemistically named "Room." Ma has created a whole universe for Jack
within Room, and she will stop at nothing to ensure that, even in this treacherous environment, Jack is able to live a complete and fulfilling life. But as Jack's curiosity about their situation grows, and Ma's resilience reaches its breaking point, they enact a risky plan to escape, ultimately bringing them face-to-face with what may turn out to be the scariest thing yet: the real world. Brie Larson won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Actress. Vitals: Director: Lenny Abrahamson. Stars: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, William H. Macy, Joan Allen, Wendy Crewson, Sean Bridgers.
2015, CC, MPAA rating: R, 118 min., Drama, Box office gross: $11.964 million, Lionsgate.Extras: Audio commentary with director Lenny Abrahamson, cinematographer Danny Cohen, editor Nathan Nugent and production designer Ethan Tobman; "Making Room" featurette; "11x11" featurette; "Recreating Room" featurette.
The Night Before
Three friends -- Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) -- have grown up together since childhood. Each year they get together for a Christmas Eve reunion - a night of debauchery and fun. But as they enter adulthood they realize it may be time to let things go -- but not before finding the Nutcracka Ball -- the Holy Grail of all Christmas parties.
Vitals: Director: Jonathan Levine. Stars: Anthony Mackie, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Lizzy Caplan, Jillian Bell, Mindy Kaling.
2015, CC, MPAA rating: R, 101 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $43.035 million, Sony.Extras: Cast gag reel, "Making One Epic Party: 20 Minutes of On-Set Shenanigans," four featurettes: "The Spirit of Christmas," "Drunkest Santas on The Block," "Whale Juice: Extended Strip Club Scene," "Midnight Mass with Nana." Blu-ray adds deleted & extended scenes, Mr. Green Line-O Rama, "Christmas in the Summer" featurette.
The Peanuts Movie
In this CGI animated comedic adventure, Snoopy, the world’s most lovable beagle -- and flying ace! -- embarks upon his greatest mission as he and his team take to the skies to pursue their arch-nemesis, the Red Baron, while his best pal Charlie Brown begins his own epic quest back home.
Vitals: Director: Steve Martino. Stars: Voices of Noah Schnapp, Bill Melendez, Hadley Belle Miller, Alexander Garfin, Rebecca Bloom.
2015, CC, MPAA rating: G, 93 min., Animated Family, Box office gross: $129.739 million, Company.Extras: Six "Snoopy Snippets," "Better When I'm Dancin'" Meghan Trainor music and lyric videos," "You Never Grow Up Charlie Brown," "Snoopy's Sibling Salute," "Learn to Draw Snoopy, Woodstock and Charlie Brown," "Get Down with Snoopy and Woodstock Music Video," "Behind the Scenes of Better When I'm Dancin'," "Snoopy's Playlist."
The critically acclaimed interpretation of one of literature's most famous and compelling characters. Macbeth (Michael Fassbender), Duke of Scotland, receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard), Macbeth murders his king and takes the throne for himself. Vitals: Director: Justin Kurzel. Stars: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, David Thewlis, Paddy Considine.
2015, CC, MPAA rating: R, 113 min., Drama, Box office gross: $1.034 million, The Weinstein Co./Anchor Bay.Extras: Q&A with Michael Fassbender, "Making Macbeth" featurette.
In the Heart of the Sea
In the winter of 1820, the New England whaling ship Essex was assaulted by something no one could believe: a whale of mammoth size and will, and an almost human sense of vengeance. The real-life maritime disaster would inspire Herman Melville's "Moby-Dick." But that told only half the story. "Heart of the Sea" reveals the encounter's harrowing aftermath, as the ship's surviving crew is pushed to their limits and forced to do the unthinkable to stay alive. Braving storms, starvation, panic and despair, the men will call into question their deepest beliefs, from the value of their lives to the morality of their trade, as their captain searches for direction on the open sea and his first mate still seeks to bring the great whale down.
Vitals: Director: Ron Howard. Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Ben Whishaw, Brendan Gleeson, Tom Holland.
2015, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 122 min., Action Drama, Box office gross: $24.860 million, Warner.Extras: "Chase & Pollard: A Man of Means and a Man of Courage. Blu-ray adds "Whale Tales: Melville's Untold Story," "The Hard Life of a Whaler," "Lightning Strikes Twice: The Real-Life Sequel to Moby Dick," "Commanding the Heart of the Sea," deleted and extended scenes, "Ron Howard: Captain's Log."
This adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's ("The Talented Mr. Ripley," "Strangers on a Train") seminal novel "The Price of Salt" follows two women from very different backgrounds who find themselves in an unexpected love affair in 1950s New York. As conventional norms of the time challenge their attraction, an honest story emerges to reveal the resilience of the heart in the face of change. A young woman in her 20s, Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), is a clerk working in a Manhattan department store and dreaming of a more fulfilling life when she meets Carol (Cate Blanchett), an alluring, older woman trapped in a loveless, convenient marriage. There's an immediate connection between them, and the film charts the ups and downs of their relationship as they are buffeted by Carol's indignant, abusive husband as well as by her jealous ex-lover. Brilliant acting, cinematography, lighting and editing put this film at the top of our list for best films of the year (though the Academy overlooked it for a best picture nom). Two women in love was a forbidden love in the 1950s (and maybe still, today, to the Academy), and director Todd Haynes and cinematographer Edward Lachman's camerawork highlights the clandestine affair by shooting through gauzey curtains and clouded windows. A work of art! Vitals: Director: Todd Haynes. Stars: Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Kyle Chandler, Sarah Paulson, Cory Michael Smith, Jake Lacy.
2015, CC, MPAA rating: R, 118 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $12.122 million, The Weinstein Co.
The Big Short
It's been seven years since the housing market bubble burst and the world was pushed into a major economic recession. How did it happen? Greedy and corrupt Wall Street investors and bankers -- taking advantage of lowered federal regulations -- made subprime housing loans to people who couldn't afford them, then packaged the loans as investment vehicles for other bankers and investment firms. In 2008, Wall Street guru Michael Burry (Christian Bale) realized that a number of subprime home loans were in danger of defaulting, and he bet against the housing market by throwing more than $1 billion of his investors' money into credit default swaps. His actions attracted the attention of banker Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), hedge-fund specialist Mark Baum (Steve Carell) and other opportunists. Together, they made a fortune by taking full advantage of the impending economic collapse. Director Adam McKay's satirical and enlightening look at the machinations of big money is based on the best-selling book by Michael Lewis. The film won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Vitals: Director: Adam McKay. Stars: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Marisa Tomei, Melissa Leo, Selena Gomez, Hamish Linklater, Rafe Spall.
2015, CC, MPAA rating: R, 130 min., Bio-Drama, Box office gross: $66.462 million, Paramount.Blu-ray extras: "In the Trenches: Casting," "The Big Leap: Adam McKay," "Unlikely Heroes: The Characters of The Big Short," "The House of Cards: The Rise of the Fall," "Getting Real: Recreating an Era," deleted scenes.
Saoirse Ronan stars as Eilis Lacey, a young Irish immigrant, navigating life through Brooklyn, alone, in the 1950s. Although her initial sadness and homesickness gives way to romance with an Italian-American, Eilis's life is disrupted by news from her hometown. After traveling home to mourn the loss of a loved one, she finds herself forced to choose between two countries and two men on opposite sides of the world. Nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Motion Picture, Best Actress and Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay.
Vitals: Director: John Crowley. Stars: Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters.
2015, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 151 min., Drama, Box office gross: $34.791 million, Fox.Extras: Six promotional featurettes: "The Story," "Home," "Love," "Cast," "The Making of Brooklyn" and "Book to Screen"; commentary by director John Crowley; photo gallery. Blu-ray adds 11 deleted and extended scenes.
When it comes to clicking together in comedy routines, it's undeniable that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler can make magic -- but not in this film. The pair play the Ellis sisters, the seemingly-responsible Maura (Poehler) and the impossibly hotheaded Kate (Fey), who return home to clean out the old junk in their bedroom after their retired parents put the family home on the market. As they rummage through the memories of their teen years, they hatch a crazy plan: one final "Ellis Island" blowout for their ex-classmates, a party to end all parties. Unfortunately, by the time we get to the "rager," we're so bogged down by the lame dialogue, bathroom humor, nasty sexual jokes and filthy words, that what's supposed to be an insane blow-out becomes a mundane yawner. Fey and Poehler can do better. Includes an unrated version not seen in movie theaters. Vitals: Director: Jason Moore. Stars: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Ike Barinholtz, John Leguizamo, John Cena, James Brolin, Dianne Wiest, Rachel Dratch, Samantha Bee, Kate McKinnon.
2015, CC, MPAA rating: R, 118 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $86.160 million, Universal.Extras: Deleted scenes, extended scenes, gag reel, "The Improvorama," commentary with director Jason Moore, star-producer Tina Fey, star-executive producer Amy Poehler and writer Paula Pell. Blu-ray adds "How to Throw a Party," "Grown-Up Parties Suck," "The Alex Chronicles," "The Kate and Pazuzu Chronicles," "A Teen Movie ... for Adults," "The Original Sister," "Pool Collapse" visual effects.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip
Through a series of misunderstandings, Alvin, Simon and Theodore come to believe that Dave is going to propose to his new girlfriend in Miami...and dump them. They have three days to get to him and stop the proposal, saving themselves not only from losing Dave but possibly from gaining a terrible stepbrother.
Vitals: Director: Walt Becker. Stars: Jason Lee, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Josh Green, voices of Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, Jesse McCartney.
2015, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 92 min., Family Animation, Box office gross: $83.650 million, Fox.Extras: "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Story So Far," "Ultimate Playlist" of Chipmunks top hits from all three movies (including a Music Machine of 11 songs, three music videos and five lyric videos. Blu-ray adds "WETA and the Chipmunks: Animators' Reference Reel," "Munk Rock," "RedFoo Squeaky Wiggle Dance Instructional," "After the Party: A Munkumentary."
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
The film version of the second half of Suzanne Collins' final "Hunger Games" book tidies up all the loose ends engendered by Part I as the 13 districts of the dystopian future America (Panem) go to war against the power of the Capitol. As the rebels move on the government, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) -- now taking on the symbolic role of the Mockingjay -- teams up with a group comprised of hardened guerilla fighters and her closest friends to liberate the citizens of war-torn Panem and assassinate President Snow (played delightfully nasty by the always-smirking Donald Sutherland). Most of the film is given over to this platoon of fighters making their way to the heart of the city, where they must face mortal traps, dangerous enemies and moral choices. Most of the time the rebels make narrow video-game-style escapes (seemingly recycled from other sci-fi films, notably an attack by a group of white-skinned underground genetically engineered creatures called "mutts") but the action is still fast and furious -- and you know who to root for. It's stirring and fun, and, as always, it's a pleasure to watch Lawrence take command of the screen. And, oh yes, there's treachery and hidden agendas galore as the film winds down. Revenge is sweet and the ending -- as would be expected -- is warm and sweet. The Blu-ray combo set contain more than five hours of special features. Vitals: Director: Francis Lawrence. Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Willow Shields, Elizabeth Banks, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Stanley Tucci, Liam Hemsworth, Jeffrey Wright, Donald Sutherland.
2015, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 137 min., Action, Box office gross: $280.302 million, Lionsgate.Extras: Audio commentary with director Francis Lawrence and producer Nina Jacobson; "The Hunger Games: A Photographic Journey"; "Cinna's Sketchbook: Secrets of the Mockingjay Armor"; "Panem on Display: The Hunger Games: The Exhibition." Blu-ray adds "Pawns No More: Making The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2" eight-part documentary: "Walking Through Fire" (on concluding the saga), "Real or Not Real" (on visual design), "High-Value Targets" (on the acting ensemble), From Head to Toe" (costume, make-up & hair), "Navigating the Minefield" (production in Atlanta, Paris & Berlin), "Collateral Damage" (stunts, special effects & weapons), "Tightening the Noose" (the post-production process), and "A Different World" (reflections); "Jet to the Set."
"Daddy's Home" is a by-the-book comedy about mild-mannered radio executive Brad (Will Ferrell) and his trials and tribulations as he tries to become the best step dad possible to his new wife's (Linda Cardellini) two kids. Unfortunately, when biological father Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) shows up unexpectedly, Brad's idyllic family life is turned upside down and he has to go toe-to-toe with Dusty to prove he's the better dad. The results, of course, are predictable -- brainy Brad just can't keep up with brawny Dusty, and he must figure out new ways to get the upper hand, resulting in typical Will Ferrell loser-persona comedy situations. Still, there's plenty of laughs to go around -- and you can't knock the presence of the always likeable Wahlberg.
Sean Anders. Stars: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini, Thomas Haden Church, Scarlett Estevez, Owen Vaccaro, Bobby Cannavale, Hannibal Buress.
2015, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 96 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $145.237 million, Paramount.Blu-ray extras: "The Making of Daddy's Home" behind-the-scenes featurette with cast interviews; "Daddy-Off" discussion between Ferrell and Wahlberg about how their characters compete to be the "Best Dad" and how they eventually learn to share a common ground; "Daddy Daughter Dance" behind-the-scenes; "Halftime Stunt"; "Tony Hawk: Skater Double" ultimate reveal as world-famous skateboarder Tony Hawk gets back on the halfpipe while doubling for Will Farrell's character during the epic skateboard stand-off between dads; "Child's Play" piece showcasing the talent of the child actors who play "Dylan" and "Megan"; "Hannibal Buress: The Perfect Houseguest" unfiltered featurette about rising comedic star Hannibal Buress and how he became involved in the film; "Blooper - Jeet Kune Do" as Ferrell and Wahlberg attempt to tell the perfect bedtime story; deleted and extended scenes.
The Hateful Eight
Quentin Tarantino takes his well-worn tropes -- despicable characters, ultra-violence, greed, treachery, deceit -- and mixes up a heady brew that ends up being greater than the sum of its parts. The at-first slow-moving, talkative Western -- revolving around a pair of bounty hunters (Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson) and a prisoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh) on her way to be hanged in the town of Red Rock, Wyoming, some time after the end of the Civil War -- unfolds as a Greek tragedy worthy of Shakespeare by way of Kurosawa and Peckinpah. The acting is sharp (Jennifer Jason Leigh was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress), the cinematography gorgeous, and the score glorious (Ennio Morricone won an Oscar for that). It's all over the top, but that's the way Tarantino works best -- and we like it. Shot entirely on 70mm (using Ultra Panavision 70, the very rare and exceptional format that is the widest 70mm theatrical release in 20 years. Panavision's unique anamorphic camera lenses capture images on film in an incredible aspect ratio of 2.76:1; almost all films seen today are shot in ratios of either 1.85:1 or 2.39:1. Ultra Panavision 70 provides an amazingly wide and more detailed image).
Vitals: Director: Quentin Tarantino. Stars: Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern.
2015, CC, MPAA rating: R, 168 min., Western, Box office gross: $53.400 million, The Weinstein Company/Anchor Bay.Extras: Two featurettes: "Beyond the Eight: A Behind-the-Scenes Look" and "Sam Jackson's Guide to Glorious 70mm."
Weak, lackluster remake of the cult favorite 1991 film starring Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves and Gary Busey and directed by Kathryn Bigelow. A young FBI agent, Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey) infiltrates a cunning team of thrill-seeking elite athletes -- led by the charismatic Bodhi (Edgar Ramirez) -- who are suspected of carrying out a spate of crimes in extremely unusual ways. Deep undercover, and with his life in imminent danger, Utah strives to prove they are the architects of a string of inconceivable crimes.
Vitals: Director: Ericson Core. Stars: Edgar Ramirez, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Delroy Lindo, Ray Winstone.
2015, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 114 min., Action-Thriller, Box office gross: $28.651 million, Warner.Extras: Deleted scenes. Blu-ray adds trailers, four featurettes: "Rock Climbing," "Wingsuit Flying," "Snowboarding" and "Motocross." (Warner).
Based on the incredible true David vs. Goliath story of Nigerian doctor Bennet Omalu (played by Will Smith), a brilliant forensic neuropathologist who made the first discovery of CTE, a football-related brain trauma, while conducting a 2002 autopsy on former Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster. During the next few years he gathers new evidence of similar brain damage in football players but, despite this, the NFL fights tooth and nail to suppress his research, intimidating his family and associates. Eventually the doctor is vindicated, and the sport finally acknowledges that long-term, repeated blows to the head can cause brain damage. The intrigue of the forensic discovery -- and the almost conspiratorial denial by the powers-that-be -- could have made an exciting, involving movie -- along the lines of "Spotlight" -- but investigative journalist-turned director Peter Landesman ("Parkland") just doesn't yet have the chops to pull it off. Smith turns in a solid performance in the otherwise middle-of-the-road film.
Vitals: Director: Peter Landesman. Stars: Will Smith, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Arliss Howard, Paul Reiser, Luke Wilson, Albert Brooks.
2015, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 123 min., Bio-Drama, Box office gross: $34.255 million, Sony.Extras: "Inside the True Story" featurette, commentary with director Peter Landesman. Blu-ray adds nine deleted scenes, "Crafting Concussion" featurette.
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.