This week, Jennifer Lawrence goes Russian and an Oscar winning foreign film highlight the new Blu-Ray and DVD options. Yes, the highlights coming to home video today are a slightly mixed bag, but it happens. The slate overall is only a decent one, but there’s admittedly a bunch of variety to be found including “A Fantastic Woman” int he top slot. Read on to see more.
PICK OF THE WEEK
“A Fantastic Woman”
This Chilean movie took home the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Feature. Star Daniela Vega received much of the acclaim, though filmmaker Sebastián Lelio certainly showcased some major talent as well. Together, they formed something special and rather unique. Here is a bit from our positive review out of the Toronto International Film Festival:
…every so often, a film like “A Fantastic Woman” comes along that breaks the mold. Directed by Sebastián Lelio, this aptly titled drama features a uniquely inspiring protagonist, showcased through the perceptive eye of a brilliant filmmaker.
“A Fantastic Woman” has an Oscar under its belt. That alone makes it worth seeing. Throw in how Lelio followed this up with “Disobedience” and it’s even easier of a recommendation. Give it a look!
Special Features: Featurettes
Total Box Office: $2,020,785 (and counting)
Major Awards: Won Best Foreign Language Feature at the Academy Awards
In honor of this week’s release of “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” the pick today is going to be the last “Story” film in the “Star Wars” canon. It’s, of course, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” which made waves two years ago. Also overcoming a troubled production, the movie thrilled audiences, surprising them in the process. Plus, it blew us all away with an ass kicking Darth Vader. In fact, that’s what our fearless leader mentioned when reviewing it here on the site:
Here is the main takeaway: this film has perhaps the best Darth Vader scene in franchise history.
Clayton’s review is here on the website. Before checking out Han Solo’s origin story, be sure to revisit how the plans to the Death Star were commandeered.
OTHER FILMS BEING RELEASED
Here’s a look at what else is hitting shelves today, besides the sole recommended title “A Fantastic Woman”:
“The 15:17 to Paris”
Director Clint Eastwood came up well short with his most recent look at a true life act of heroism. Casting the actual heroes backfired, and Eastwood couldn’t put forward another heartland hit. The New York Post panned it rather succinctly, writing the following:
Minus its pivotal event, “The 15:17 to Paris” feels a lot like sitting through someone else’s endless photo slide show: Really only interesting to the people who lived it.
This is forgettable Eastwood, plain and simple.
Box Office: $36,250,957
Animator Nick Park returns for another family friendly lark here, though this one didn’t really break through to the masses. He again received positive reviews, but raves were few and fat between this time. For example, Entertainment Weekly had a thumbs up, put made the case like so:
At least there’s director Nick Park’s playful Silly Putty visual imagination to take your mind off just how thin the story is.
Park fans should check it out.
Box Office: $8,267,544
This action comedy managed to really surprise a lot of those who saw it. In fact, reviews were exceedingly positive. That came as a shock to some, but considering the talent on the screen, they were fully capable of this. Over at indieWIRE, they dove in to how it exceeded expectations:
With a packed lineup of players and a board that covers far more area than you’d expect from a wide-release early spring lark, [Game Night] is a dark romp for all the players involved.
If you’re looking for a lighter option than “A Fantastic Woman,” give this one a look!
Box Office: $68,778,493 (and counting)
“I Kill Giants”
A drama with fantasy elements, this is an odd little duck. It’s too uneven to recommend, but it has plenty going for it. In a lot of ways, it feels like a more independent take on the ground that “A Monster Calls” covered. If that sounds intriguing, then this could be up your alley. The Hollywood Reporter had this to say about the flick:
A sensitive and attractive, if not wholly convincing, pairing of fantasy with real-life turmoil.
Give it a look if it sounds interesting to you.
Box Office: N/A
“On the Beach at Night Alone”
This foreign flick from filmmaker Sang-soo Hong was definitely well liked by critics. At the same time, this was another case where the positive takes weren’t out and out raves. Just look at this take from The AV Club, which was one of the best examples of this:
It’s a raw, open wound of a movie, in its hunkered-down way, and Hong doesn’t always seem to be wholly comfortable handling emotions that aren’t strictly mediated by social niceties.
Hong fans should look into this one.
Box Office: $35,967
An indie black comedy (in black and white), it apparently features some terrific work from Patricia Clarkson. With a satirical bent, a lean running time, and a solid ensemble, this seems like an under the radar gem, potentially. Variety had this to say about the film:
A deliciously heightened, caviar-black comedy that sets up its brittle, bourgeois characters like bowling pins and gleefully knocks them down in 71 minutes flat.
Give it a shot, perhaps?
Box Office: $749,827
Jennifer Lawrence can do almost anything. Unfortunately, sometimes the material isn’t up to her standards. In this case, sex and violence, along with her talent, couldn’t overcome plot holes galore. In our mixed at best review here on the site, we took the work to task for wasting the actress:
This film isn’t dumb enough to be a ridiculous fun time, but it’s also nowhere near smart enough to weighty and compelling.
Lawrence deserved better.
Box Office: $46,789,613 (and counting)
The latest from filmmaker Todd Haynes was once thought of as a major Oscar player. Then, festival reviews suggested a smaller scale work of his. It ended up mostly ignored, which is fair, considering the work is lacking his usual panache. Mark had this to say from the Telluride Film Festival, where he wrote the following:
The editing is dizzying and the pace is excruciating with the story lines simply taking too long to come together.
Haynes has done better. Stick with “A Fantastic Woman” this week.
Box Office: $1,060,377
Special Criterion Collection Section
“Beyond the Hills”
The first new Criterion release this week is an award winning dram from filmmaker Cristian Mungiu. Feted heavily at the Cannes Film Festival a half decade ago, it’s an admittedly tough watch. Those who stick with it however certainly see its impeccable filmmaking. The Collection gives you a little detail here:
With this arresting drama based on notorious real-life events, Cristian Mungiu mounts a complex inquiry into faith, fanaticism, and indifference.
Mungiu doesn’t make crowd pleasers, but if you appreciate his style, this could be his best movie to date.
The next title to join the Collection today is the most recent work from the just mentioned Mungiu. We gave it a mixed review out of the New York Film Festival, but by and large it drew his usual raves. Another prize at Cannes cemented him as a favored son for the fest. Criterion praises him like so:
Blending rigorous naturalism with the precise construction of a thriller, this Cannes award–winning drama from Cristian Mungiu sheds light on the high stakes and ethical complexities of life in contemporary Romania.
Double your Mungiu pleasure (even though that’s hardly the right word) this week!
“Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters”
The final new Criterion selection to discuss comes from Paul Schrader, who just had his new movie “First Reformed” hit theaters over the weekend. From 1984, this is certainly one of his least seen works, but sounds like one of his most unique. Let the Collection explain:
Paul Schrader’s visually stunning, collagelike portrait of the acclaimed Japanese author and playwright Yukio Mishima (played by Ken Ogata) investigates the inner turmoil and contradictions of a man who attempted the impossible task of finding harmony among self, art, and society.
Schrader fans should definitely check it out.
“Call the Midwife: Season Seven”
“Gunsmoke: The Thirteenth Season, Volume 1”
“Gunsmoke: The Thirteenth Season, Volume 2”
“Famous in Love: The Complete First Season”
“The Sinner: Season One”
“Will & Grace (The Revival): Season One”