This week, it’s a rather weak slate of new Blu-Ray/DVD releases that are coming to store shelves near you. Sadly, even the top pick I have today isn’t one I’m excited about (though many of you will be), so there isn’t a whole lot overall for the column. Hey…it happens. For my PICK OF THE WEEK, I pretty much had no choice but to cite an admittedly very high concept sci-fi action/drama that I’m in the minority of not being in love with. You’ll see what I’m talking about in just a moment, but I do want to get to my Vintage pick first, so much like every other week, we can start there now…
In honor of this week’s release of John Wick, I wanted to cite possibly my favorite thing that Keanu Reeves has ever been involved in. It’s the documentary Side By Side that he shepherded to screens. In my rave review (found here), I wrote this: “This documentary on the past, present, and future of cinema filtered aptly through the lens of the celluloid vs. digital debate is engrossing, entertaining, and vital. Somehow, filmmaker Christopher Kenneally and producer/interviewer/narrator Keanu Reeves manage to not make this project too inside baseball for the layman or laywoman, but at the same time it gets into the details in such a way that even experts won’t be bored. Digital and photochemical filmmaking have their passionate defenders, and the documentary gives both of them equal time. Reeves actually spends most of the time playing devil’s advocate (an amusing coincidence, no?) with A-list directors and cinematographers (plus some editors, studio executives, and businessmen working on the cameras being debated about), leading the doc to actually be the rare breed that isn’t advocating for one side or the other. Shooting on film is romanticized to a degree, but its limitations are made clear. Shooting digitally is presented as the wave of the future here today, but also not without some huge issues that detract from it. This is the type of thing every film school student should see in a 101 class, but moreover every film lover should see. It’s informative, but it’s also a lot of fun. Anyone who’s had the film vs. digital argument will adore what’s going on here.” I stand by all of that still to this day. It’s something that you really should see if you haven’t experienced yet. Trust me…
Other Films Being Released
With only the one film to recommend (and barely that), here now is a simple list of what else is hitting shelves on this day, sans my own personal recommendation or anything of that sort. Behold:
This foreign war drama is one that slipped under my radar, but judging by the box office cume, I’m hardly the only one. I can’t say one way or the other if it’s worthwhile, so you’ll have to use your own judgment here.
Box Office: $8,055
A Coffee in Berlin
Another foreign flick that I didn’t get a chance to see (I swear, I don’t miss these on purpose…it’s just impossible to see everything), I have heard decent things about this though. I can’t vouch for it, but I’m sure you could do worse than this one, so take that for what it’s worth.
Box Office: $150,275
Earth to Echo
I heard pretty mediocre things about this kids movie, so I wound up skipping my screening. Apparently, it’s a pretty pale ripoff of E.T.: The Extraterrestrial, which sounds like something worth missing. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am…
Box Office: $38,916,903 (and counting)
The Fluffy Movie
A good stand up concert film is hard to come by (though I finally caught up with Mike Birbiglia’s My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend and loved it…hopefully he adapts that for his sophomore feature), but since I’m not wild about Garbiel Iglesias, I don’t think this is going to be the next one I fall for. If you’re a fan of his though, this should be worth a shot.
Box Office: $2,827,393
This is a film that I was bummed I didn’t get to see before writing up the column. I am popping it in this week though, so perhaps I would have had another recommendation for you all. With a cast like this, I can’t imagine it’s a waste of my time. Check social media for my reaction to this one…
Box Office: $88,273
The Purge: Anarchy
Oh boy did I hate this movie. In my one star pan of a review (found right here), I had these unkind words to say: “Man this is a terrible movie. The first one (simply titled The Purge) wasn’t good either, but that was just a mediocre flick that happened to waste an intriguing premise. Here, we have that premise shown to be a tone-deaf rant against the top 1% in America. You know, I’m usually game for a satirical work that takes aim at hard right-wing values or makes a statement about Republican Party beliefs, but this is so badly done that I want to be as unassociated with it as possible. When the inevitable Fox News report comes out raging that this is an anti 1% and anti Tea Party film, I won’t bother to defend it one bit. It’s ridiculously poorly made by returning writer/director James DeMonaco, including a scene that is perhaps the worst shot sequence I’ve ever seen. Seriously, as I said on Facebook and Twitter, porn movie shoots would have found it unacceptable. The film wastes a rare leading man role for Frank Grillo and reduces young up and comer Keith Stanfield to bit player, among other sins. This is among the very worst flicks of the year so far, bar none.” It turns out I was kind of in the minority on this one (not in terms of disliking it, but in terms of hating it), but I couldn’t care less. It’s trash, plain and simple. Avoid at all costs.
Box Office: $71,562,550
I was super bummed that this high concept comedy turned out to be a misfire on all counts. In my mixed at best review (here) I wrote the following: “The film has its funny moments, especially during the first 20 minutes or so, but once the plot gets into gear, things fall apart. Stars Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz do their best to keep the humor coming, but Segel’s also the co-writer here and his writing isn’t up to his usual standards. Director Jake Kasdan seems content to just put raunchy stuff on the screen and move on, turning in lazier work than you’d expect from the filmmaker. This flick is on safe ground when Diaz and Segel just get to riff or interact with each other, something that doesn’t happen nearly enough. The second act has a prolonged sequence in a large that grinds the movie to a halt (and is very similar to a scene from The Five Year Engagment), and aside from one amusing cameo towards the end, but best that the flick has to off comes during the first half hour. Sex Tape isn’t a bad film, but it’s only an average one and not particularly something that I feel the need to recommend. Everyone involved has done better work in the past than this…” If you’re just in the mood to chuckle at something stupid, this isn’t an awful choice, but it misses way more than it hits, just know that.
Box Office: $38,543,473
Step Up: All In
I’ve managed to avoid all of the flicks in this franchise so far, so I’m completely okay continuing that trend. If you like this sort of thing, go for it. If not, be like me and keep on trucking.
Box Office: $14,904,384
Downton Abbey: Seasons 1-4
Duck Dynasty: Seasons 4-6
Mad Men: The Final Season, Part 1
Pee Wee’s Playhouse: Complete Collection
Red Skeleton Show: The Early Years
Soul Man: Season 1
PICK OF THE WEEK
Here’s an awkward situation. I find Snowpiercer to be rather overrated, but I also like it well enough to recommend in a weaker slate like today’s. Hence, I have to sort of sell this to you while also reminding you that I didn’t find it to be the second coming. As such, I’ll simply reiterate that this is a mostly beloved film, even if I found it closer to a mixed bag than a resounding success. I am planning on revisiting it this week though, so perhaps I’ll come around to it more. Regardless, with this week’s slate, it’s easily the best of the bunch.
Special Features: Audio Commentary, Featurettes, and more…
Total Box Office: $4,563,029 (and counting)
Major Award: None yet, but it potentially could contend for a Best Visual Effects nomination
–What will you be watching this week? Discuss in the comments!