best films of the century

son-of-saul-1This week, we have one of the most highly regarded foreign films of last year leading the way for things coming to Blu-Ray/DVD. This particular title also happens to more or less be the only thing of real note coming out today, so it stands even taller by comparison. There’s a few curiosities hitting, as we’ll get to later, but my top pick was a pretty obvious one, all things considered. Yes, for my PICK OF THE WEEK, I went with the most recent winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Feature. You all should know which movie I’m talking about, but just in case you don’t, all will be revealed shortly. However, first up, of course, is my Vintage pick!

Vintage Viewing

Scene-from-Marley--Me-001In honor of this week’s release of Keanu (which I see tomorrow and will be reviewing by Friday), I’m going to take a hard right turn and recommend a film involving a beloved pet. Oddly enough, I’m choosing Marley and Me, which is one of my guilty pleasures, aside from being a movie that will always get me to cry, 100% of the time. Especially as it deals realistically with the senior years of a dog’s life and how loving a pet and being loved by one can be so special, it pulls at your emotions in a powerful way. It’s not a perfect flick, but it’s a charming one that’s well worth a revisit this week.

Other Films Being Released

With just one thing to really honor today, here now is just a simple list of what else is hitting shelves on this particular day, sans my recommendation. Behold:

The Driftless Area

I saw this film back last year at Tribeca and found it to be decent yet a bit too flawed. My festival review here began by saying: “Well acted and occasionally beautiful looking but far too meandering for its own good, The Driftless Area is doomed at the Tribeca Film Festival by its own title. Yes, it’s probably an unoriginal statement, but the film is just too aimless to really work. Co-writer/director Zachary Sluser organizes a really strong cast but gives them far too little to do over the course of the drama’s 90 some odd minute running time. With only period exceptions, the performances of Zooey Deschanel, John Hawkes, and Anton Yelchin, along with Sluser’s lush visuals, can’t make up for a script that never quite hones in on what it wants to be. There’s spiritual chatter, fatalistic musings, and some dark comedy, but it refuses to ever mesh. The main trio do what they can, but despite characters that you might, in the right situation, be interested in following, it just doesn’t work. The Driftless Area isn’t bad, but it is rather on the frustrating side and a bit of a let down…”. I stand by all of that, even though it does have solid acting that could woo some viewers in. It’s just too inconsistent to recommend.

Box Office: N/A

Jane Got a Gun

jane-got-a-gun_0The behind the scenes story of how this movie struggled to even get made, let alone released, makes for something more interesting than the western itself, but it is better than you’d probably expect it to be. This review here from the Los Angeles Times sums it up nicely, stating:

“As stripped-down, revisionist Westerns go, “Jane Got A Gun” may not have reinvented the wagon wheel, but it rolls out as a sturdy, well-crafted genre piece despite its rocky road to the screen.”

I agree, even though I’m not overtly recommending it. If you’re curious though, give it a look. You might just be pleasantly surprised.

CONTEST ALERT! If you want to win your very own copy of “Jane Got a Gun,” along with some other “Women Kick Ass” films, go to our last podcast episode to enter!

Box Office: $1,513,793

Krampus

I was pretty disappointed by this horror comedy, feeling it wasted a ton of potential. In my review here, I said: “After how much I enjoyed filmmaker Michael Dougherty‘s horror title Trick ‘r Treat, I was really looking forward to Krampus, his take on the urban legend/fairly tale character that’s gotten popular recently. Sadly, while I really appreciate his attempt to make a Joe Dante style B movie horror comedy, this film just doesn’t really work. The initial idea is solid, some of the execution is clever, and there are moments where you see how this could have been a holiday delight, but the mixture just never becomes anything fully palatable. From not really giving cast members like Toni Collette and Adam Scott much to do, pulling some punches to get a PG-13 rating (though I confess it’s fairly intense for the most part and probably too scary for kids), to losing control of tone in the second half, Krampus more often than not just disappointing. I suppose for some it might be a future cult classic and it probably will have a long life on television as a Christmas season alternative pick, but the final product just plain should have been better. Unable to fully commit to a horror comedy premise, Doughterty’s flick wants to be a next generation Gremlins but it never comes close. Essentially, Krampus has delusions of cinematic grandeur, acting like it’s alwaydy a classic before earning that distinction. What a missed opportunity this is…”. It really is just that, a missed opportunity to establish itself as a new classic of the genre. Alas.

Box Office: $42,725,475

Phoenix

This foreign flick was one I wasn’t able to see, but just about everyone has spoken very highly about it. Among the throngs of positive reviews is this one right here from Variety, which says: “Life is a bombed-out, soulless cabaret in Christian Petzold’s Phoenix, a haunting portrait of identity, loss and the search for answers in post-WWII Berlin.” I certainly plan on seeing it at some point, so feel free to join me there!

Box Office: $3,184,472

Ride Along 2

Considering how much I disliked the first one, it probably shouldn’t be a shock that I skipped the sequel. Reviews seem to suggest that I made a fine choice too, as this one here from Rolling Stone said: “Hart and Cube are too good to settle for hawking leftovers. They deserve better. So do we.” That sounds like something I was right to pass on.

Box Office: $90,862,685

TV Releases

The Beverly Hillbillies: The Official First Season
Hot In Cleveland: Complete Series
Raven: The Complete Series
Royal Pains: Season 7

PICK OF THE WEEK

Son of Saul

Son-of-Saul-staloneI feel like I was the only person not absolutely blown away by this Holocaust drama. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a very good movie, but I couldn’t quite fall quite as hard for it as most others. Clayton, for one, was as high on the film as anyone, writing here that “We simply don’t deserve László Nemes, the first-time writer/director of Hungary’s submission for the Oscar’s Foreign Language category, “Son of Saul.” Nemes vacuums everything we think we know about filmmaking and the Holocaust, and gives it a raw, intense, and fresh outlook that we haven’t seen since Roman Polanski’s “The Pianist,” perhaps even Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List.” Not to mention, he is thoroughly aided and indebted to the stunning and remarkable talent of Géza Röhrig, in his feature debut. The two simply dance circles around other films and performances seen in this year, with an authentic and genuine approach to art, that we just don’t get to experience too often. I’m in awe.” I may find that a slight over-evaluation, but I’m in the minority. Either way, it’s certainly the best of the bunch this week, so be sure to pick it up!

Special Features: Commentary, Q and A, and more…
Total Box Office: $1,772,944 (and counting)
Major Award: Won Best Foreign Language Feature at the Academy Awards

What will you be watching this week? Discuss in the comments!