This week, three of the very best releases of 2015 are hitting Blu-Ray and DVD, which might just be a record. The best part of this slate, however, is that they’re not the only films worth mentioning today. It’s a great grouping, quality wise, so we can rejoice. It’s as if my birthday has come a few weeks early (cough March 13th cough), especially since two of the flicks feted below cracked my year end top ten list. My top pick was a hard decision too, as you can imagine. In the end, my PICK OF THE WEEK is a franchise reboot/sequel over an artful dramedy, but it was close. You’ll see what I mean below, but for now, it’s Vintage time!
In honor of this week’s release of Knight of Cups (which I did not like one bit), I wanted to cite a better film featuring Imogen Poots. It’s Solitary Man, a dramedy that features one of my favorite Michael Douglas performances. I’ve cited this one a number of times before, so I’ll just reiterate that it’s an engaging and surprisingly touching character study. It’s long deserved a larger audience, so I’m still doing my part to make it happen. Poots is very good here too, so definitely give it a shot, as she’s utilized better in this one than in a certain new release this week…
The other four titles I’m going to discuss here today, to one degree or another, aren’t as strong as my top pick, but they’re nothing to dismiss either, as they’re quality movies. Behold:
This home invasion flick is not quite what you’d initially expect it to be, as I said here in this review: “To some degree, what you think about other films of this ilk will affect how you judge Intruders. This home invasion thriller isn’t as clever or genre busting as You’re Next sought to be, but at the same time, it’s hardly a run of the mill flick either. In that realm, it could come down to how much you like a movie such as this to stick to the expected tropes. If you want it cut and dry, you’ll likely find this different enough to be original but still towards that realm. If you want it as unique as possible, this might come up a bit short, though not for a lack of effort. For me, Intruders is a solid enough mix that it’s worth recommending. Director Adam Schindler and a game cast seek to make something that both follows the conventions of the genre while also going off in some new directions. Schindler, nor screenwriters T.J. Cimfel and David White, are trying to re-write the book on how to do this sort of a flick, but they’re definitely interested in not going down every previously traveled road. It’s a mixed bag of a thriller, but when you add it all up, the good does slightly outweigh the bad, allowing me to offer up a recommendation.” It’s nothing to go nuts over, but it is worth checking out.
Special Features: N/A
Total Box Office: N/A
Major Awards: None
The Night Before
A holiday comedy with a decidedly darker tone to it than most others, I found this one to be mostly enjoyable. From my review (found here) at the time: “It’s rare that a bit of extra time thinking about what’s essentially a stoner holiday film leads to a kinder review, but that’s the case here. Initially, I’d gone a bit more mixed on The Night Before, opting for a two and a half star review instead of a three star one, but an extra 24 hours (ironic, no?) has led me to realize that I enjoyed myself more than I originally thought. To be fair, all of the principals here, from co-writer/director Jonathan Levine to the main trio of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anthony Mackie, and Seth Rogen have done better work, but the amount of chemistry here is just too good to ignore. Plus, the supporting performance of Michael Shannon (who I didn’t even know was in the movie) is perhaps my favorite surprise turn of the year, besides being one of the most amusing things he’s ever done. He’s insane, in the best way possible. Insanity kind of sums up The Night Before too, as it’s loose and messy in a way that you can’t always easily process. What makes this work in the end though is how it actually winds up sticking to and honoring Christmas movie conventions, obviously in it’s own raunchy way.” This is no modern classic, but if you like these actors, you should enjoy what they’re offering up here.
Special Features: Deleted Scenes, Featurettes, Gag Reels, and more
Total Box Office: $43,035,725
Major Awards: None
I, along with just about everyone else on the planet, adored Brie Larson in this film and would like to adapt Jacob Tremblay. I agree wholeheartedly with Clayton when he says: “Director Lenny Abrahamson taps into the human spirit, pure and unhindered in his film “Room,” adapted from the novel by Emma Donaghue, who writes the film’s screenplay. Anchored by two tremendous performances from Brie Larson and young Jacob Tremblay, “Room” mixes an emotionally harrowing story with classic film techniques that surprises even the most dedicated movie-goer. Sure to bring some sensitive cinema lovers to tears, everything about Abrahamson’s direction feels raw and sincere, bringing to life, two very enriching characters.” This is a must see, and as an added bonus, you can check out my interviews with the now Oscar winner Larson here as well as with nominees Abrahamson/Donoghue here.
Special Features: N/A
Total Box Office: $13,474,429 (and counting)
Major Awards: Won Best Actress (Larson) at the Academy Awards
One of the more underrated and under seen gems of 2015 is this dramedy that mixes high art filmmaking with occasional low art sex humor. My rave review (found right here) begins as such: “What an often breathtaking film this is. Youth embraces you in a warm, mysterious hug, and never lets go. With tremendous acting, gorgeous visuals, and a hypnotic melancholy, this is something very unique. I fell under the spell that writer/director Paolo Sorrentino was casting early on and it lasted throughout its entire running time. This is such a well acted, well shot, and emotional movie that I’m almost shocked that it’s not more beloved by pundits than it already is. I suspect that audiences are going to really like this one, especially if they’ve enjoyed the prior works of Sorrentino (this is the first time he blew me away though, so there’s hope for everyone). Led by an absolutely outstanding performance by Michael Caine, along with top tier supporting work from Harvey Keitel that I’ll be praising just as much shortly, this is something kind of special folks. It’s the sort of thing that sneaks up on you over the course of its just under two hour running time. I loved Youth and suspect that it will be in heavy contention for a spot on my year end top ten list. Yes, it’s that good. When it’s funny, it’s very funny. When it’s moving, it’s very moving. It’s a full independent film meal, as it were.” I hope this one can find its audience now, as it deserves to be revered as the top notch film that it is.
Special Features: N/A
Total Box Office: $2,673,936 (and counting)
Major Awards: Nominated for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards
Other Films Being Released
Here now is just a simple list of what else is hitting shelves on this particular day, sans my recommendation. Behold:
This horror film is one I just sadly never got around to seeing, despite having a screening link, and no, it’s not the terrible looking one currently in theaters. This one had its fans, including Devin Faraci, who wrote: “Not since Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer has a movie gotten inside the head of a killer with such cold-blooded artistry.” I’m hoping to check it out soon, since I do love Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.
Box Office: N/A
The Danish Girl
The acting is top notch, yes, but this is also director Tom Hooper at his most Hoopery. That didn’t bother some folks, but it did bug me. I didn’t care for it, but Clayton loved it, saying: “Tom Hooper‘s “The Danish Girl” feels vibrantly relevant in today’s cinematic climate. Spearheaded by two powerhouse performances from Academy Award winner Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander, “The Danish Girl” is a luscious and gorgeously crafted piece, invigorating the soul with its conveying message of freedom and love.” Flaws aside, it does look great, so check out my conversation here with Head of Makeup Jan Sewell as well as Oscar nominated Production Designer Eve Stewart.
Box Office: $11,004,408 (and counting)
I haven’t seen this Sam Rockwell vehicle, but it was more or less shrugged off by critics on the whole. This bit from Bilge Ebiri at Vulture sums it up: “I think I chuckled about three times …” That’s not a winning batting average, so while I love Rockwell, I’m in no hurry to check this one out. Alas.
Box Office: $31,309
The 2015 Tom Hardy release not to win or be nominated for any Oscars, this was a roundly dismissed gangster tale where he played twins. I found it mediocre, which more or less seems to be the consensus on it. Oliver Lyttelton at The Playlist says it best: “A little more energy or flair could have stopped “Legend” from feeling like a standard biopic in the way that it does.” Hardy had a strong year though, so he’ll survive this one.
Box Office: $1,872,994
I didn’t see this pseudo biopic of James Dean, but it’s another film that got middling reviews. From Pete Howell at The Toronto Star: “It ends up demystifying Dean, perhaps by accident but no less regrettably.” What a shame. Sigh…
Box Office: N/A
Miss You Already
A tear jerker that I missed my screening opportunities for, it seemed to be more or less well liked. This bit from A.O. Scott at The New York Times sounds about right: “There are some sitcom beats and moments of smiling-through-tears fakiness, but you never doubt that these women love each other and that the movie’s interest in the complexities of that love is justified.” I’m sure I’ll get around to it soon, so feel free to do the same!
Box Office: $1,162,653
The Americans: The Complete Third Season
Death Note: The Complete Series
Drunk History: Season Three
My Big Fat Greek Life: The Entire Series
Strike Back: Cinemax Season Four
PICK OF THE WEEK
As a big fan of the Rocky franchise, I was expecting to like this sequel. I wasn’t, however, expecting to love it. My utter rave of a review (found right here) begins like this: “This is what you hope for whenever you go to a screening…a film you have middle of the road expectations for absolutely knocking your socks off. In the same way that the original Rocky captured magic in just the right way, winning the Academy Award for Best Picture in the process, so too has filmmaker Ryan Coogler four decades later with Creed. This sequel/spinoff is not only the best in the franchise since the first one, it’s one of the best sports dramas in some time and among the best releases of 2015 so far. You read that right. Creed is more than a money grab, more than a genre film, and more than a step into the mainstream for Coogler. It’s a work of art. Featuring a performance from Michael B. Jordan that will finally make him an A-lister, my favorite cinematography of the year to date (more on that later), and one of the most outstanding supporting turns of the year as well from none other than Sylvester Stallone, I’d go so far as to say that Creed is nearly perfect. A surprisingly emotional experience, this movie will wipe you out before picking you up, dusting you off, and causing you to cheer. It’s something special, a tale of legacy, mortality, and finding your place in the world. Creed is a stunning achievement that deserves Oscar consideration across the board, especially when it comes to, wait for it…Stallone. Don’t believe me? Just you wait and see what this one has in store for you…” Obviously, Stallone didn’t wind up winning, but that snub takes nothing away from how magical this movie is. It’s a must own, plain and simple.
Special Features: Deleted Scenes and more
Total Box Office: $109,712,885 (and counting)
Major Award: Nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Stallone) at the Academy Awards
–What will you be watching this week? Discuss in the comments!