It’s like an end-of-summer fire sale this week. So many movies! All available to watch from the couch in unwashed yoga pants and Alf tee shirts. I mean, that’s how we imagine you watching these, but really, wear whatever you want. The important thing is to let us help you decide where to spend your valuable time.
Remember the unbelievable bounty in home entertainment last week? Well, it can’t be Christmas every day, kids. Things are a little slower this week, but making its way to DVD/BluRay is a decent horror flick and swimming to your screen for the first time is a shark attack flick that’s not nearly as bad as you think it is. Also, a 17-hour long movie about kids toys dating back to medieval times or some such bullshit.
Not a ton to choose from this week. Basically, you can yell I Am Groot with Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2. Or – and we’re not TV people, so if we’re excited about this, it’s really a big deal – Ash Versus Evil Dead, Season 2 is now available. Groovy!
Click the title for a full review. And as always, please use this information for good, not evil.
Releasing today on DVD is the most imaginative love story in a decade or more,Her. Writer/director Spike Jonze’s unique vision of the near future offers a compelling, tender peek at what may lie in store for a generation weaned off of intimacy by technology. Scarlett Johansson and Joaquin Phoenix are perfection as the lovebirds, but Jonze and his imagination are the real stars.
Another unusual take on romance worth checking out is Joseph Gordon Levitt’s writing/directing debut Don Jon. Coincidentally, the film also boasts a magnificent performance from Scarlett Johansson – just one of several great turns in delightful and loaded cast. Check out Tony Danza! JGL skewers a culture that encourages alienation and suppresses intimacy – two obstacles also facing the lovers in Her. It’s a confident, clever, surprising effort from a filmmaker to watch.
Israel’s hypnotic fairy tale nightmare Big Bad Wolves releases today. We follow one driven cop, one driven-to-madness father, and one milquetoast teacher accused of the most heinous imagined acts. Not for the squeamish, the film boasts brilliant performances, nimble writing and disturbing bursts of humor. It treads in dark, dark territory, but repeatedly dares you to look away. It’s a bold and brilliantly realized effort.
It’s hard to imagine anyone really aching for a double bill like this, but it’s impossible to watch Big Bad Wolves without thinking of the under-seen and under-appreciated Prisoners. Hugh Jackman is a revelation as the father bent on finding his missing daughter in a film that bludgeons your senses and leaves you shaken. Impeccable casting, relentless intensity and crafty writing make this a challenging, fascinating film.
Earlier this year the indie gem Frances Ha was released, not that the world noticed. Well, world, here’s your opportunity to make amends, because this loosely articulated but deftly crafted character study of a New York dork could come home with you today on DVD.
The creative pairing of unrepentant misanthrope, writer/director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) and unabashedly likeable writer/star Greta Gerwig, the film gives Baumbach the opportunity to explore the lives of damaged neurotics, as usual, but gifts us with a protagonist we cannot help but love. As Frances tumbles, limbs akimbo, out of her arrested adolescence and into her long-dormant adulthood, a delightful journey emerges.
For something as impressive, if not quite so effervescent, you must see Baumbach’s masterpiece of awkward family dysfunction, The Squid and the Whale. This dark, semi-autobiographical comedy follows a self-absorbed adolescent, his divorcing narcissist parents, and his perhaps irrevocably weird little brother. Baumbach’s wicked writing created endless opportunities for the film’s dream cast, boasting, among other triumphs, the most brilliant performance of Jeff Daniels’s career.
Usually we take this opportunity to point you in the direction of a great new release, then pair that with an older film with similarities. But today is so stocked with great new releases, we’ve chosen to just recommend a couple of those. (Check out our Halloween Countdown for another new release recommendation: The Conjuring.) Aside from a theme of sketchy parenting, these two films could not have less in common. Still, both are well worth your time.
The Way, Way Back was one of the summer’s most enjoyable flicks – a nostalgic but smart look at the painful and awkward transitions of adolescence. Sam Rockwell owns the film as Bill Murray-esque mentor to self-conscious teen Duncan (a very believable Liam James), a boy stuck on a summer vacation with his mom (Toni Collette) and her tool boyfriend (Steve Carell, playing marvelously against type). Fresh, funny and surprisingly honest, it’s that rare coming of age tale that hits on all cylinders.
Only God Forgives, on the other hand, is Nicolas Winding Refn’s dreamlike trip through hell itself. Set in Bangkok, the tale that unspools is a slow-moving nightmare in red, a visual spectacle of family dysfunction and vengeance of the most vulgar and unseemly sort. Ryan Gosling smolders, Kristin Scott Thomas stuns, and Visaya Pansringarm sings karaoke, but they all have a lot of blood on their hands. You may not enjoy it, but you will be amazed.
We can’t bring ourselves to pair up a new release with a similarly wonderful backlist title because two awesome films are released to DVD today: The Iceman and Stories We Tell. You’ll just have to watch two new ones.
The Iceman showcases the range of genius character actor Michael Shannon. Director Ariel Vromen makes the most of Shannon’s physical presence as well as his ability to oscillate between steely calm and touching vulnerability. It’s a tour de force from one of this generation’s most impressive performers.
Meanwhile, Sarah Polley continues to impress with her skills behind the camera with Stories We Tell. The Canadian writer/director/actor becomes her own documentarian, sharing family secrets in a poignant, fascinating and impeccably crafted look at how all families shape and reshape their own histories.