This week, one of the best documentaries in some time comes to Blu-Ray and DVD. Not only that, it represents a moment to look back at President Barack Obama and his second term Administration. Given the current state of American politics, that’s positively wish fulfillment. Throw in one of the best Westerns in some time and we have a solid slate today. Time to dive in!
PICK OF THE WEEK
“The Final Year”
A look at President Obama’s foreign policy team, this documentary is fascinating. Of course, it’s impossible to watch without knowing that Donald Trump looms in the background. Still, watching Obama and his lieutenants, namely John Kerry, Ben Rhodes, and Samantha Power, try to leave a foreign policy legacy is captivating. The third act shows the worst case scenario come true, but before that, it’s the sort of thing that should be required viewing for all Americans. Rolling Stone had this to say:
What chills most about this doc is how unprepared Team Obama was for the victory of Team Trump and the ease with which many of its hard-won policies could be unraveled. Welcome to our new national nightmare.
“The Final Year” is an incredibly compelling watch. Regardless of your political bent, watching Obama’s team work is a wonderful civics lesson. Pick it up and see for yourself!
Special Features: N/A
Total Box Office: $191,900
Major Awards: None yet
A brutally violent western, this is the first Scott Cooper movie to really showcase his abilities. Christian Bale, Ben Foster, and Rosamund Pike are excellent, while the cinematography really stands out. Westerns haven’t been this good in some time, especially period ones. Bravo to all involved. Here’s a bit from our rather rave review out of the 2017 Telluride Film Festival:
“Hostiles” is gritty and gruesome, with deep themes of desperate antipathy and somber absolution, both of oneself and with those who have done us wrong.
“Hostiles” is not for the easily disturbed. If you have the stomach for the brutality though, it’s well worth watching.
Special Features: Featurette
Total Box Office: $29,814,750 (and counting)
Major Awards: None
In honor of this week’s release of “Disobedience,” the pick today is going to be another forbidden love story. It’s “Carol” from Todd Haynes, which has quite the following. There have been tons of raves for this one, so there’s not much to add, though it’s worth remembering that, despite the category placement controversy, Rooney Mara was just as good as Cate Blanchett in the flick. This came from a review out of the Associated Press:
Carol is an overwhelmingly beautiful film. It looks like a dream, it sounds like whispered want, and it feels like falling in love in all its stomach turning terror and ecstasy. Even its title rolls elegantly off the tongue.
Be sure to check out “Disobedience” when it opens in a few days. It’s a worthy compliment to “Carol” in every way!
OTHER FILMS BEING RELEASED
Here’s a look at what else is hitting shelves today, besides the highly recommended duo of “The Final Year” and “Hostiles”:
“Bill Nye: Science Guy”
A documentary about the scientist and longtime children’s show host Bill Nye. What’s not to like? An unlikely crusader for truth, he’s actually probably the sort of hero that we need right now. That’s 2018 for you. The Los Angeles Times dug it, writing the following:
Should warm the hearts and minds of science lovers, weather enthusiasts, environmental watchdogs and astronomy buffs, all while inspiring viewers to ask questions and seek answers.
Nye fans will love it. Plus, it should pair well with the Obama Administration doc, which is our Top Pick today.
Box Office: $74,909
“Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story”
Another doc hitting shelves today, this one concerned with another celebrity. This one is more of a showbiz doc, looking at the life of Hedy Lamarr. Classic cinema fans the world over know her story is one well worth telling. The Hollywood Reporter had this to say about the final product:
A thoroughly engaging, eye-opening showbiz doc.
If you’re curious about Lamarr’s life, this is one to pick up.
Box Office: $744,737
A surprisingly well cast comedy, led by Michael Caine, this flew very much below the radar. Reviews were middling, though perhaps unnecessarily mean. It’s a cute flick that would play very well on cable in the future. Variety put forward this rather mixed take on it:
Pleasant enough to watch, even innocuous, “Dear Dictator” is something that gets worse the more you think about it.
Nothing to race out and buy, but you could do worse this week…
Box Office: N/A
“Den of Thieves”
This action flick always looked like it was only a step above direct to DVD level material. Especially when Gerard Butler shows up, you know you’re usually in for something that might try your patience. Go figure too, as he was once an exciting actor. This seemed to be along those mediocre lines. The Hollywood Reporter was not a fan at all, writing:
The loser is the audience for Den of Thieves, an over-the-top crime saga mainly indicating that its writer/director has seen Michael Mann’s Heat too many times.
Box Office: $44,947,622
“Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool”
At one point, Annette Bening was tipped to be a Best Actress frontrunner for this prestige picture. Then, we all got to see it. Well acted but incredibly sleight, the film fell short of where it needed to be for contention. Bening more than held her own though, along with co-star Jamie Bell. Entertainment Weekly feted her thusly in their positive review:
Bening – who, let’s be real, is about 15 years and eight performances overdue for her own Oscar already – holds the movie in her hands.
It’s aggressively fine. Nothing to make a fuss over.
Box Office: $1,013,833
“Forever My Girl”
Yet another throwaway romantic offering, one that wishes it could rise to the mediocrity of most Nicholas Sparks outings. Not being able to clear that low bar is truly something to shake your head at. Yuck. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to find. The Wrap took it to task as such in their review:
A Hallmark movie would have at least given the female lead something of a personality and plot arc; this movie’s all about the celebrity and his emotional journey, while the woman stands around like a prize waiting to be won, the Blessed Hometown Honey.
Box Office: $16,363,361 (and counting)
The latest outing from filmmaker Alex Ross Perry was his first to be met with a mixed response. Hardly panned, this ensemble work just wasn’t raved about like his prior cinematic offerings were. NPR wasn’t particularly satisfied, explaining as such their thoughts on the matter:
The steadfast refusal to follow through on the premise condemns the film to a state of dramatic constipation.
Box Office: $41,888
“Maze Runner: The Death Cure”
Another half hearted franchise comes to an end with this YA adapted action offering. Frankly, the most interesting part of this was that it actually got finished. After all, Dylan O’Brien was injured while making one of these. Rolling Stone was not impressed at all with what we ultimately got:
Cheers to star Dylan O’Brien for returning to complete his starring role after his serious stunt injury in Maze 2, but the third time’s a yawn for this YA dystopia series
Seems like something to easily ignore.
Box Office: $58,018,509 (and counting)
On the other hand, this series is rather beloved. Boasting a rare 100% positive ranking on Rotten Tomatoes, it appears to be delighting both young and old. A non Pixar endeavor to do that is truly as unlikely to find as a unicorn in the wild. New York Magazine/Vulture embraced it fully, writing the following:
As with the first film, Paddington 2 never feels like it’s speaking above the level of it intended primary audience, and thus the performances by the adult actors feel less like larks and more like tremendous acts of generosity.
If you’re a fan, you already know you want it.
Box Office: $40,442,052
“The Strange Ones”
This indie road trip outing is yet another small title that just slipped through every single crack out there. It barely hit theaters, and left pretty much just as quickly as it entered. That’s just the name of the game sometimes. Variety was left wanting more from it:
Despite the game efforts of its lead actors, this indie road-movie drama goes nowhere – slowly.
No need to hitch a ride with this title.
Box Office: N/A
Special Criterion Collection Section
Our first new Criterion release this week is a collaboration between filmmaker Jim Jarmusch and then hardly A-list star Johnny Depp. Both would go on to more acclaim, but it’s arguably among the better works from each. That should make this a curiosity to many of you. Here’s what the Collection had to say about it:
With Dead Man, his first period piece, Jim Jarmusch imagined the nineteenth-century American West as an existential wasteland, delivering a surreal reckoning with the ravages of industrialization, the country’s legacy of violence and prejudice, and the natural cycle of life and death.
If you’re interested in an offbeat indie, this is one to give a chance to!
“The Virgin Suicides”
Also joining the Collection today is this directorial debut from Oscar winning filmmaker Sofia Coppola. A dark yet often wonderful look at being a young woman, it really showed us what Coppola had to offer. She’d go on to win an Academy Award the next time out, but she already had many of her chops on display. Criterion pitches you on it like so:
With this debut feature, Sofia Coppola announced her singular vision, exploring the aesthetics of femininity while illuminating the interior lives of young women.
Coppola fans should pick this one up!
“Shameless: The Complete Eighth Season”
“Static Shock: Season 4”
“Unforgotten: Season One”