This week, a really high quality slate of releases are coming to Blu-Ray/DVD, which is music to my ears. Honestly, it’s one of the five best groups so far this year, which is no small praise. There’s no shortage of quality titles available to own today, that’s for sure. My top pick could have gone in two or three different directions, and that’s rare. Ultimately, my PICK OF THE WEEK is one of my favorite character studies of 2015 to date, though there’s as many recommendations overall as ever. I’ll get to all of those soon enough, but for now…it’s time for Vintage picks!
In honor of this week’s release of both Spectre (my review of which could be up by the time you’re reading this, but if not…rest easy, I liked it), I wanted to cite the last film in the 007 franchise. It’s Skyfall, one of the better Bond flicks to date. In my review at the time (found here), I said: “A phenomenally effective mix of old and new, this is exactly what I wanted out of 007. Credit is deserved all around for this success story, but chief among them has to be director Sam Mendes. The Oscar winner, along with his frequent DP Roger Deakins, has brought a beautiful visual style to this Bond flick. Armed with a strong screenplay from returning scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, along with newcomer John Logan, Mendes and company have given Craig an adventure that both points the spy in a number of new potential directions as well as honoring the past in a way that the franchise has never really done before. The end result is riveting, and easily one of the most satisfying films in the canon…” With the new one out in a matter of days, this is the perfect time to revisit this one.
The large assortment of other quality titles I’m going to discuss here today aren’t quite in the same league as my top pick, but that’s nothing at all to be ashamed about, especially this time around. Behold:
Before We Go
You can 100% tell what the influences are for Chris Evans as a filmmaker while watching his directorial debut. From my review (here) of the flick: “Imitation is often the sincerest form of flattery, be it in life or just in cinema. With his directorial debut Before We Go, actor turned filmmaker Chris Evans is wearing his movie influences clearly on his sleeve. While originality is not exactly his strong suit, Evans proves to be a capable director with no shortage of charm both in front of (as we already knew) and behind the camera. This is very much a film in the spirt of the Before Trilogy (specifically Before Sunrise) as well as 2 Days in New York, just with a slightly different spin. Essentially a very likable vanity project, Before We Go has pretty small ambitions as an independent directorial debut and as such is able to achieve most of its goals. Evans is somewhat of a work in progress as a director, but he’s clearly been watching throughout his career and is no amateur. I think he could very well have a truly great flick in him. Is this one it? No, but even so, it’s still more than solid enough to recommend to you all.” It’s nothing to go crazy over, but it’s definitely good enough to check out.
Special Features: N/A
Total Box Office: $37,151
Major Awards: None yet, and don’t hold your breath
Digging for Fire
Over the last few years, Joe Swanberg has done something really crafty in the film industry, getting to tell his intimate stories on a bigger level. This is another solid outing, as I wrote (right here) in this review: “There’s something really pleasurable about watching a new act in a filmmaker’s career. With his new movie Digging for Fire, multi-hyphante Joe Swanberg has fully emerged from his mumblecore beginnings and become an incredibly nimble writer and director. His early works like Hannah Takes the Stairs or Nights and Weekends established his simple aesthetic, but it’s been lately with films like Drinking Buddies, Happy Christmas, and now this one that he’s been able to wed his independent sensibilities with bigger (by comparison) stories. Digging for Fire, perhaps even more so than those last two flicks, shows just how interesting a filmmaker Swanberg has become. This time around, he’s balancing indie comedy/dramedy with a meditation on middle age malaise as well as a touch of mystery…perhaps even a murder mystery, though that’s for you to find out. Working with his starriest cast ever, which includes Orlando Bloom, Rosemarie DeWitt, Brie Larson, and Sam Rockwell as well as returning players from his recent works Jake Johnson (who co-wrote the script with Swanberg), Anna Kendrick, and Ron Livingston, Swanberg makes this a true ensemble piece, slowly expanding the cast of characters. It’s perhaps a bit too ambitious for its own good at times, but more often than not, Digging for Fire is excellent entertainment.” I can’t wait to see what he does next…
Special Features: N/A
Total Box Office: $119,364
Major Awards: None yet, but the Spirit Awards could take notice
The Final Girls
This love letter to cheesy slasher flicks is also a bit of a take down of the sub genre as well. From my review (which you can see right here) last month or so: “Homages that also poke fun at genre tropes can be a risky proposition. If the pendulum swings too far in one direction, the effectiveness of the material is compromised. Luckily, with The Final Girls, the mixture is just right, with comedy and horror balanced quite nicely. There’s a lo hi quality here that mostly succeeds, as director Todd Strauss-Schulson clearly had a limited budget to play with. More often than not, he uses it to his advantage, though here and there you see a few things you wish would have been given another once over. Solidly cast, well executed, and a ton of fun, this is a love letter to cult horror movie fandom, among other things. To be fair, The Final Girls does like to pat itself on the back for being as clever as it is, but that’s a pretty small complaint. This is the sort of flick that puts a smile on your face early on and rarely allows it to leave.” If it sounds like your sort of a thing, then trust me that you’ll enjoy!
Special Features: N/A
Total Box Office: N/A
Major Awards: None yet
This absolutely beloved animated feature is a true return to form for Pixar. I’d never claim that they were in a rut, but this is the best since Toy Story 3 for me, bar none. Complex, emotional, and of the mindset that sadness is important to growing up, it’s perhaps the most adult outing from the company yet. Even if it’s not quite the masterpiece some other cartoons of theirs are, it’s still top notch and a threat for a Best Picture nomination. I’m sure you all have seen it by now, so there’s not much I can add, but it’s my runner up for the top spot today, so that’s just an extra feather in this one’s cap. Go grab it.
Special Features: N/A
Total Box Office: $355,597,857 (and counting)
Major Awards: None yet, but it’s the frontrunner for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards
Seymour: An Introduction
I really loved this documentary when I first came across it last year at the New York Film Festival. In my review (here), I began like this: “More often than not, documentaries tend to be heavy material, so whenever a lighter doc comes along that manages to also be high quality, you want to really celebrate it. Actor/sometimes filmmaker Ethan Hawke makes his documentary debut here with the very charming Seymour: An Introduction, which does exactly what it promises to do…it quite simply introduces us to pianist Seymour Bernstein and lets him into our lives while we follow him through his in the present day. Hawke is clearly in awe of this man, though you’ll be hard pressed not to be as well when all is said and done. It’s very much a character study, only obviously a real life one. From the early days of Bernstein’s life to what’s going on here and now, it’s all very mellow and at the same time rather exciting. It helps that Bernstein is a real character and Hawke is his appealing self when he periodically appears on camera. Now, something like Seymour: An Introduction isn’t going to cure cancer or save the world, but it firmly entrenches itself as one of the best docs of the year so far…” Plain and simple, it’s just a delight.
Special Features: N/A
Total Box Office: $620,731
Major Awards: None yet, but it’s an Oscar contender for Best Documentary Feature
Other Films Being Released
Here now is just a simple little list of what else is hitting shelves on this particular day, sans my recommendation. Behold:
Best of Enemies
A documentary that slipped through the cracks for me during the lead up to its theatrical release, it’s perhaps an Oscar dark horse this year, so that alone should put it on your “to see” list. It’s on mine, so when I have a bit of free time, it’s certainly going to get a spin in my Blu-Ray player. The rest is up to you on your end…
Box Office: $889,332 (and counting)
I can totally sit back and enjoy B movie horror outings as much as anyone, though I do prefer them to make a bit more effort than this one. Tara Reid is here, so if you’re a fan of her recent television work, this is in that wheelhouse. Make of that what you will, ladies and gentlemen.
Box Office: N/A
A Lego Brickumentary
This doc is one I’ve been meaning to catch up on, since the subject matter is just wonky enough to appeal to me. I remember some good things being written up about it, so that’s a plus as well. I’ll get to it when I get to it, essentially, but if you love Lego, it’s right here now for you to give a look to and enjoy.
Box Office: $101,531
A schlocky little B movie, it’s an action flick that 100% knows what it is. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes that’s a bad thing. In this case, I’ll let you be the judge if you opt to see it. I thought it was mediocre, but not in an especially terrible way. That’s just me though…your mileage may vary.
Box Office: N/A
This long delayed disaster that was this film is now available to own. Notable for being an action adventure with perhaps the most unsafe working conditions ever, it’s mostly something to say for the movie history angle of it all. I’m going to watch it soon, so if you haven’t seen it, you won’t be alone in catching up now that it’s out on DVD…
Box Office: $110,048
She’s Funny That Way
I’ve yet to get around to this new film from veteran director Peter Bogdanovich, but I’ve heard fairly mixed things about it overall. That being said, the cast is pretty loaded and a comedy from this filmmaker always will have my attention. I’m certainly going to keep my expectations in check, but this is a flick that I plan to scope out in the coming days, schedule permitting of course. Perhaps you’ll join me in giving it a fair shot?
Box Office: $111,996
I can’t say that I felt a desire to go see this remake, but I totally would have, had I not been on my own vacation to Austin, incidentally. Reviews were mediocre, so I’m not in any hurry to give it a look, but eventually I’ll likely do so. If you’re a fan of the original, maybe you’ll check this out? Or, you know…maybe not.
Box Office: $58,884,188
Batman: The Complete Third Season
Black Sails: The Complete Second Season
Californication: The Complete Series
Doctor Who: Series Nine, Part One
Empire: The Complete First Season
Flight of the Conchords: The Complete Collection
Getting On: The Complete Second Season
I Love Lucy: The Complete Series
Kingdom: The Complete Season 1
Last Man Standing: The Complete Fourth Season
Legends: The Complete Season 1
That ’70s Show: The Complete Series
PICK OF THE WEEK
The End of the Tour
There’s something just wonderful about watching an actor evolve before your very eyes and blow you away with something new. Jason Segel accomplishes that and more here, as I said in this review (found here). I began as such: “As much as I’ve come to expect strong work from filmmaker James Ponsoldt and actor Jesse Eisenberg, I was absolutely blown away by Jason Segel‘s performance in The End of the Tour. He is so good here playing David Foster Wallace that you immediately forget all of his fine comedic work and just buy him as the reclusive author. Eisenberg is excellent too, but Segel just goes above and beyond in the sort of way that you only see a few times in a given year. Both performances bounce off one another beautifully and Ponsoldt keeps the focus on the interactions between the two, making this as much a play as a movie. It’s still very cinematic in its own way, but the emotions are all character based, which I loved. The impending tragedy is never far from our minds, but the moment in time captured here is well before that event, a decision that I think only further infuses the work with emotion and power.” It’s a magnificent film, the best thing out this week, and an absolute must see, plain and simple…
Special Features: N/A
Total Box Office: $2,955,411 (and counting)
Major Award: None yet, but Jason Segel could contend at various precursors
–What will you be watching this week? Discuss in the comments!