This week, the world of sports entertainment fashions a first rate biopic, while Liam Neeson puts a twist on his standard action feature. These two offerings lead the charge of new Blu-Ray and DVD offerings, though they’re hardly alone. As for what else is hitting shelves today, read on for more.
PICK OF THE WEEK
Instead of the normal Liam Neeson revenge tale, this remake opts to be, at its core, a dark comedy. Jarring at first, the bleak hilarity soon becomes a sick pleasure. Director Hans Petter Moland takes his Norwegian original and helms this American remake, massaging it into nearly a satire. In particular, how certain situations are handled here is utterly hilarious. It shouldn’t work, but it does. Variety was similarly thrilled by the choices made here:
By pumping up the darkly comedic undertones, augmenting the frigid chill of the original, Moland’s terrific, riveting picture distinguishes itself from other rote remakes.
“Cold Pursuit” is a strong remake. Neeson’s bizarre confession during the press rounds shot this one in the foot, and while his behavior is inexcusable, the work can be judged on its own. This film is darkly hilarious and an absolute riot.
Special Features: Deleted Scenes and more
Total Box Office: $32,138,862
Major Awards: None yet
“Fighting with My Family”
Professional wrestling is not where biopics normally come from, though the world of sports entertainment is ripe for parody. Instead, a touching underdog story is crafted, one that legitimately inspires audiences to root for the underdog. Florence Pugh puts forth a star making turn, engaging not just with athleticism but with emotion as well. From our rave review out of the Sundance Film Festival:
“Fighting with My Family” is, in some ways, your standard biopic/family dramedy. But writer/director Stephen Merchant uses familiar structure to set his film against a background of a world many people know of, but don’t really know. There is much more under the surface in this world of scripted machismo, and Merchant smartly brings that out in the form of characters that feel familiar without being entirely stereotypical.
“Fighting with My Family” gives audiences a “Rocky” for the world of sports entertainment. Any fans of the quasi-subgenre would do well to pick this one up.
Special Features: N/A
Total Box Office: $22,952,372 (and counting)
Major Awards: None yet
In honor of this week’s release of “Trial by Fire,” the pick today is another film set on death row. It’s the Oscar winning “Dead Man Walking,” which explored similar ground almost two and a half decades ago. Tim Robbins‘ directorial effort was adept in bringing out the anger that one can have over capital punishment. Roger Ebert was strongly moved by it, writing the following:
Absorbing, surprising, technically superb and worth talking about for a long time afterward
“Trial by Fire” will anger some, so while this would make for a depressing double feature, they pair together very well based solely on thematics.
OTHER FILMS BEING RELEASED
Here’s a look at what else is hitting shelves today, besides the two recommended titles in “Cold Pursuit” and “Fighting with My Family”:
Coming just months after “First Man” examined Neil Armstrong, this documentary presents the famous lunar mission through newly revealed archival footage. An enthralling pairing to that narrative effort, this look at a great moment in American ingenuity is a one of a kind experience. Our highly positive review here had this to say:
“Apollo 11” uses recently unearthed 70mm archival footage to construct a rich portrait of this incredible mission. Stripped of narration, interviews or any of the other traditional documentary trappings, “Apollo 11” lets the footage speak for itself.
Those curious about NASA should add this documentary out to their roster
Box Office: $8,650,126 (and counting)
“Happy Death Day 2U”
This sequel to the original mix of horror, science fiction, and dark comedy ups the ante. Moreover, it allows the franchise to grow in ways that suggest a bright future for the series. Blumhouse has another huge hit on their hands, with The Wrap offering praise:
Transforms the original high-concept slasher into a ambitious and witty sci-fi treatise on alternate realities and the cinematic significance of personal growth in sequels.
Those who enjoyed the first entry seem likely to find this second installment just as fun.
Box Office: $28,051,045
“Never Grow Old”
John Cusack and Emile Hirsch are an unlikely pairing, regardless of the genre. To put them in a period Western is a surprise, though one that pays unexpected dividends. Both Cusack and Hirsch are better than they’ve been in years, finding small personal touches in this genre effort. From The Hollywood Reporter:
There’s nothing in the film that we haven’t seen countless times before. But it’s a pleasure to see the familiar genre handled so expertly.
A gritty, small-scale Western, “Never Grow Old” will surprise anyone who watches. Especially for Cusack and Hirsch, it’s worth a look.
Box Office: N/A
“Never Look Away”
Nominated for two Oscars, in Best Cinematography and Best Foreign Language Feature, Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck‘s three hour epic is gorgeous. The visuals are what set the film apart and likely what earned the film such awards season love. Our review here on the site put forth this somewhat restrained take:
Is it contradictory to say a film is both ambitious and cliched? Both classifications describe “Never Look Away,” the third film from Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck.
Likely one of the Academy Award nominees most viewers hadn’t seen on Oscar night, now is the chance to see what got voters’ attention.
Box Office: $1,295,458 (and counting)
Special Criterion Collection Section
The first of two titles coming to Criterion today is a modern classic by Michael Haneke. Infuriating to watch in the best way, Haneke spares no one, including the audience. The Collection perfectly summarizes the brilliance of the film like so:
Michael Haneke’s most notorious provocation, Funny Games spares no detail in its depiction of the agony of a bourgeois family held captive at their vacation home by a pair of white-gloved young men. In a series of escalating “games,” the sadistic duo subject their victims to unspeakable physical and psychological torture over the course of a night. A home-invasion thriller in which the genre’s threat of bloodshed is made stomach-churningly real, the film ratchets up shocks even as its executioners interrupt the action to address the audience, drawing queasy attention to the way that cinema milks pleasure from pain and stokes our appetite for atrocity. With this controversial treatise on violence and entertainment, Haneke issued a summation of his cinematic philosophy, implicating his audience in a spectacle of unbearable cruelty.
The movie is a must own, especially if you’ve never seen Haneke’s most creative effort to date.
“House of Games”
For the other release joining the Collection this week is a feature from acclaimed writer David Mamet. Having mastered the craft of playwriting and screenwriting, Mamet turned to directing with this thriller. The result was a character study of some note. Here’s what Criterion has to say about the film:
Packed with razor-edged dialogue delivered with even-keeled precision by a cast of Mamet regulars, House of Games is as psychologically acute as it is full of twists and turns, a rich character study told with the cold calculation of a career con artist targeting his next mark.
Mamet fans shouldn’t miss out on this one.
ALSO OF NOTE
Today, a special Collector’s Edition of the classic Studio Ghibli release comes to Blu-Ray as well. From Academy Award-winning filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, the animated fantasy film has been considered, since release, to be one of the most beloved international works of all time. Roger Ebert parsed out his praise succinctly in his four-star rave review at the time:
Hayao Miyazaki is a great animator, and his Princess Mononoke is a great film.
Miyazaki fans of all stripes would do well to pick up this special release of “Princess Mononoke.”
Special Features: Featurettes, Essay Book, Soundtrack CD, and more
“Power: The Complete Fifth Season”
“South Park: Seasons 1-5”
“South Park: Seasons 6-10”